Job Stress Brings Gastrointestinal Problems

A new study shows that stress at work can increase your risk for mental health disorders and gastrointestinal problems.

Dr. Yvette Lam, a gastroenterologist at Stony Brook University Medical Center in New York, evaluated 697 people who helped with the cleanup at the World Trade Center after the 9/11 attacks. Dr. Lam and her colleagues examined the workers in October 2005 and September 2006 and found that 41% suffered from gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD. It’s estimated that only about 20% of the general population is affected by GERD.

Workers who suffered from GERD, a condition characterized by frequent heartburn and acid reflux, were more likely to also suffer from mental health disorders like depression and anxiety. PTSD affected 21% of the workers with GERD, and nearly 30% had an anxiety disorder. Dr. Lam believed that treating the stress and mental health disorder may help resolve the symptoms of GERD.

Another study looked at the prevalence of gastrointestinal problems among military personnel in stressful situations. Researchers at the Naval Medical Research Center in Silver Spring, MD found 32,000 instances between 1999 and 2007 where active duty U.S. military personnel reported gastrointestinal problems. These problems included constipation, diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and indigestion after an infection of the stomach.

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