People who can't seem to relax and renew on weekends off from work may have a higher long-term risk of dying from heart disease, a study suggests.
Researchers in Finland found that among nearly 800 workers who were followed for 28 years, those who said they often failed to "recover" from their workweek over the weekend were more likely to eventually die of cardiovascular disease.
Men and women who said they "seldom" recovered from work fatigue and stress were about three times more likely to die of heart disease or stroke as workers who "almost always" recovered.
The risk was independent of known heart risks such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, inactivity and smoking, as well as psychological factors like depression and job stress.
People who can't seem to recoup their energy on weekends off may be showing signs of underlying atherosclerosis, a buildup of plaques in the arteries that can lead to heart disease or stroke, Dr. Mika Kivimaki, the study's lead author, told Reuters Health.
But that can't fully explain the findings, because many deaths occurred several years after the workers were surveyed, according to Kivimaki, a professor and researcher at the University of Helsinki and the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health.
Instead, the researchers said, failure to recover from work may often be a "risk marker" for future cardiovascular disease. Over time, continual stress on the cardiovascular, hormonal and immune systems may contribute to heart disease or stroke.
The study, published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine, is based on data from 788 employees of a Finnish manufacturer who were surveyed in 1973 about their health, lifestyle and background. The workers also answered questions about job strain and recovery from work — including whether a free weekend was typically enough to allow them to get over job fatigue and stress.
Kivimaki's team tracked the number of deaths from cardiovascular disease and other causes from 1973 to 2000.
They found that workers who said they rarely recovered from work were more likely than others to die of cardiovascular disease, but not other causes.
Kivimaki suggested that people who can't seem to recoup their energy on weekends off try to examine the possible reasons so they can make changes. "Is it because of excessive stress at work or in private life, chronic depression, heavy drinking or something else that could harm heart health?"