These findings were borne out by Whitehall II, a second study carried out 20 years later. However, it was interesting to see that after normalizing for smoking, leisure time, and so on, the lower grades of the civil service were still at elevated risk for heart attacks.
Why? The answer seems to be cortisol... what we typically refer to as a stress hormone. Where once we assumed that higher civil service managers would be under greater stress due to greater responsibilities, health outcomes related to stress seem to have more to do with perceived and real levels of control over one's own life.
In simple terms, lacking autonomy, lacking control over one's own life, is related to poor health outcomes and shortened life expectancy.