This study examined women's cardiovascular and neuroendocrine responsiveness to work.
Ambulatory blood pressure (BP) and heart rate (HR) were recorded over 24-hour periods on 2 work and 2 off days during the luteal and follicular phases of the menstrual cycle in 138 registered nurses, aged 25 to 50 years. Urinary catecholamines and cortisol were measured for day and night periods.
During waking hours systolic BP (SBP), HR, and epinephrine were higher on work than off days. Diastolic BP (DBP) and HR were highest at work. Nurses scoring high on job demands had elevations in daytime SBP, daytime HR only on work days, and nighttime epinephrine on work days. Compared with those with short work histories, nurses employed longer had consistently higher norepinephrine levels during days and nights, and higher nighttime DBP during off days. In unmarried nurses compared with married nurses, nighttime cortisol was lower during all 4 days and norepinephrine was lower during days off. All findings were independent of actigraph-recorded activity.
Although the work environment leads to increased activity of the cardiovascular and sympathoadrenal medullary system in healthy women, the effects are modified by the woman's domestic role, by the length of her employment, and by the demands of her job.