May 17, 2007:
A new study has found that those who think they
have been treated unfairly are more likely to have
Those who think they are experiencing the worst
injustice are 55% more likely to have a coronary
condition than people who think life is fair,
according to the report published on May 15, 2007,
in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community
Frequent experiences of unfair treatment can
produce psychological distress which, in the long
term, may influence health, says the report’s lead
author Roberto De Vogli, an epidemiologist at
University College, London.
The study, one of the largest and longest of its
kind, examined medical data from 6,081 senior
civil servants working for the British government
in London (The Whitehall Study II). In the early
1990s, they were asked how strongly they agreed
with this statement: “I often have the feeling
that I am being treated unfairly.”
Unfair treatment applied to all aspects of their
lives, including employment, family, and society
Unfair treatment was also associated with
significantly higher levels of poor physical and
Unlike previous studies, the subjects were
questioned before they showed any signs of
cardiovascular disease. That way, the results were
not distorted by people who thought life was
unfair because they were already sick.
The subjects were tracked for an average of 10.9
years. During that time, 387 of them either died
of a heart attack, were treated for a nonfatal
attack, or were diagnosed with angina.
The researchers found that the rate of cardiac
events among civil servants who reported low
levels of unfair treatment was 28% higher than for
those who had no complaints. People who reported
moderate unfairness saw their risk rise by 36%.
Nancy Krieger, a professor at the Harvard School
of Public Health, says the study adds to a growing
field of research linking poor cardiovascular and
mental health to racial and gender discrimination
– two significant sources of unfair treatment.
People who think they are victims of
discrimination often respond by drinking, smoking
or overeating, all of which would badly affect
Nadia Wager, a senior lecturer in psychology at
Buckinghamshire Chilterns University College in
Britain, is of the opinion that the unfairness
question could be a helpful addition to routine
The study was funded primarily by health agencies
in the British and United States governments.
The authors conclude that fairness is key to
promoting a healthier society.
BY OUR PHARMA CORRESPONDENT