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Job strain tied to higher risk of drug abuse

Written by: Staff

NEW YORK, Mar 2 (Reuters) Young workers who feel high stress on the job may be at increased risk of using drugs, new research suggests.

In a survey of nearly 1,000 young adults, researchers found that those who reported high job strain when they were first interviewed for the study were more likely to have started abusing marijuana, cocaine, heroin or other drugs one year later.

Specifically, ''low control'' jobs, where workers have little leeway in how to accomplish their tasks, were linked to a higher risk of drug abuse.

Since the study followed initially drug-free workers over time, the researchers say, the findings suggest that job strain preceded workers' drug problems -- and not the other way around.

The researchers, led by Dr Philip L Reed of Michigan State University in East Lansing, report the findings in the March 1st issue of the American Journal of Epidemiology.

Previous studies have tied job strain to ill health effects such as heart disease and depression. High job strain is typically defined as work that is physically or mentally demanding but gives people little decision-making authority or freedom in how to get the work done.

In the current study, high job strain was tied to the risk of becoming drug dependent by the one-year follow-up. But further analysis showed the risk was related to low job control specifically.

Overall, almost 5 percent of the 985 workers were considered drug dependent at the one-year interview. Those who'd reported low job control at the initial assessment were two to three times more likely than workers with more control to become drug dependent.

This is consistent, Reed's team notes, with research that has found a higher risk of heart disease among employees with little control over their work.

Still, no conclusions can be drawn about why low job control is related to drug abuse, according to the researchers.

The study subjects were part of a larger study that had followed them since childhood, which allowed Reed and his colleagues to take certain demographics -- like education and parents' employment during childhood -- into account. They also had measures of certain personality traits, such as the tendency to misbehave or take risks in childhood -- factors that may influence both job choice and risk of drug use later in life.

But none of these measures explained the link between job strain and drug dependence.

Other factors the study could not assess -- like parents' possible drug use or workers' own mental health conditions, such as depression -- may play a role, the researchers write.

More studies are needed, they conclude, to figure out whether certain features of the workplace directly contribute to drug abuse.

Reuters KD GC0912

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