The findings are based on more than 8,000 senior civil servants working for the British government in London (The Whitehall Study II). They were asked to score their responses to the statement: "I often have the feeling that I am being treated unfairly" on a scale of 1 to 6, where 1 equals "strongly disagree" and 6 equals "strongly agree."
Unfair treatment applied to all aspects of their lives, including employment, family, and society in general. Scores of 1 or 2 were categorised as "low," those of 3 or 4 as "moderate," and those of 5 or 6 as "high." Their mental and physical health was tracked for an average of almost 11 years, using validated health and quality of life surveys and data on ill health and death.
During the monitoring period, there were 528 new cases of fatal and non-fatal heart attack and angina in people who had had no signs of heart disease when the study began. Just under 3,000 people felt they were unfairly treated, of whom 64 out of 966 in the "low" category had had a heart attack or angina. This compares with 98 out of 1368 in the "moderate" and 51 out of 567 in the "high" categories.
The figures were adjusted to take account of traditional risk factors for heart disease, as well as socioeconomic status, gender, age, chronic job stress unfair treatment at work, and personality traits, such as hostility. But the results still showed that the higher the sense of injustice, the greater was the risk of a heart attack or angina.
People in the "high" category were 55% more likely to have serious heart disease as those who did not feel they were unfairly treated and twice as likely to have it as those in the "low" category. Women and those with lower incomes and status were significantly more likely to feel that they were being unfairly treated. Unfair treatment was also associated with significantly higher levels of poor physical and mental health.
MEDICA.de; Source: BMJ Specialty Journals