Workplace discrimination can be hard on the heart — literally.
A new study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association found that U.S. workers who experienced high levels of workplace discrimination were 54% more likely to develop hypertension (high blood pressure). The elevated risk was present independent of sociodemographic factors, behavioral factors, and other psychosocial factors.
The report tracked 1,246 workers over the course of nearly eight years, measuring instances of workplace discrimination and hypertension during the period.
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At the end of the eight-year study, 319 of the 1,246 participants developed high blood pressure during the period. Those who developed the illness did not have a history of hypertension prior to the study.
“The adverse impacts of discrimination on cardiovascular disease have major implications for workers’ health and indicate a need for government and employer policy interventions addressing discrimination,” the researchers wrote in the report.
“Unfairness” in the workplace was measured using a 6-item instrument wherein participants responded to questions on a 5-point scale of severity:
- “How often do you think you are unfairly given the jobs that no one else wanted to do?”
- “How often are you watched more closely than other workers?”
- “How often does your supervisor or boss use ethnic, racial, or sexual slurs or jokes?”
- “How often do your coworkers use ethnic, racial, or sexual slurs or jokes?”
- “How often do you feel that you are ignored or not taken seriously by your boss?”
- “How often has a coworker with less experience and qualifications gotten promoted before you?”
The level of exposure to workplace discrimination was then divided into three scales (low, intermediate, and high) based on the sum of the participant’s responses to the six questions. High blood pressure was then assessed on a yes or no scale of self‐reported doctor‐diagnosed hypertension, asking the participants questions such as: “Has a doctor ever told you that you have or had high blood pressure?”
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According to a 2021 study by case management and employee relations platform, AllVoices, 55% of over 800 U.S. workers reported experiencing workplace discrimination at their company.