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How Management Support Affects Employee Health

Submitted by  on June 5th, 2012

Businessman holding chest with heart attackAccording to a Swedish study on employee health, badly behaved and incompetent bosses make work stressful and also increase the risk of heart disease for their staff. The study, which was published in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine, concluded that when an employee feels undervalued and unsupported, the related stress can trigger the unhealthy behaviors that lead to heart disease.

Per the abstract, "A Swedish team found a strong link between poor leadership and the risk of serious heart disease and heart attacks among more than 3,000 employed men. And the effect may be cumulative — the risk went up the longer an employee worked for the same company.

"Researchers from the Karolinska Institute and Stockholm University tracked the heart health of the male employees, aged between 19 and 70 years and working in the Stockholm area, over a period of nearly a decade. During this time, 74 cases of fatal and non-fatal heart attack or acute angina, or death from ischaemic heart disease, occurred. The staff who deemed their senior managers to be the least competent had a 25 per cent higher risk of a serious heart problem. And those working for what was classed as a long time — four years or more — had a 64 per cent higher risk."

Participants rated their senior managers, grading them on such things as how well they communicated clear expectations, work goals and objectives, relevant job information, and feedback; how often they provided empathy and encouragement; their ability to successfully push through and carry out changes; and whether they delegated sufficient authority for employees to carry out their job responsibilities.

What benefits do good managers impart? Per Anna Nyberg of the Karolinska Institute and the Stress Research Institute at Stockholm University, "One could speculate that a present and active manager, providing structure, information, and support, counteracts destructive processes in work groups, thereby promoting regenerative rather than stress-related physiological processes in employees."


  • A. Nyberg and others. “Managerial Leadership and Ischaemic Heart Disease among Employees: The Swedish Wolf Study”, Occupational and Environmental Medicine

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