Bad bosses can mess with your health

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Bad bosses can mess with your health

Key points
  • Having a bad boss has been shown previously to produce high blood pressure and now Swedish research on 3,000 men has shown that it can increase heart disease risk too
  • Poor leadership increases stress and this may lead to a poor diet or lack of exercise due to feelings of low self-esteem or depression
  • Researchers found that the worse the boss, the higher the risk of heart disease. And the longer one worked for that boss, the greater the risk became.

Swedish researchers studied the health of 3,000 employed men in Stockholm for roughly 10 years. The employees (who were aged from 19 to 70 years) were asked to rate their bosses' ability to set clear goals and provide supportive feedback.

The bosses that were deemed to be the worst increased their employees' heart disease risk by 25%. And the problems were found to be cumulative: the longer the employees worked for a 'bad' boss, the worse the effect. People who had worked for a poor boss for more than 4 years had a 64% higher risk of heart disease. These negative effects affected everyone, regardless of how much they smoked or drank, or their social class or income.

One reason put forward for this increase in heart disease risk is that employees can feel undervalued and unsupported in their work. This produces stress that may cause people to make unhealthy choices - such as choosing takeaway meals, smoking or giving up on exercise.

To counter the negative effects of a bad boss and protect your health, the best advice is to keep active and follow a healthy diet. Both these choices will improve your mood and help keep your heart and blood pressure in good condition. See the links below for more information.


Nyberg A, et al. Managerial leadership and ischaemic heart disease among employees: the Swedish WOLF study. Occup Environ Med 2008; DOI: 10.1136/oem.2008.039362

Topics: High Blood Pressure in the news, Lifestyle, High blood pressure

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