Some men complain that neckties are uncomfortable. You've got a tight cloth wrapped around your neck – that can't be good for you, right? In this article I'll tackle some health myths and truths about neckties.
Claim: Wearing a tight necktie raises blood pressure in your head, raising a man's risk of having a stroke or other problems.
Science says: PROBABLY FALSE
In a study published in 2011 in the journal Stroke Research and Treatment, a group of researchers constructed a tie-simulating apparatus to see if it caused problems with men's cerebrovascular reactivity (certain shifts in blood pressure within the head). The apparatus was wrapped around men's necks and cerebrovascular pressure was examined through a method called the “breath-holding index.”
- RESULT: The tie simulator did change cerebrovascular reactivity a little (this is bad), but it still was within normal limits (this is good).
CONCLUSION: Having a tight tie didn't seem to cause any negative effects in blood pressure in the head.
Claim: Wearing a tight necktie raises pressure within the eyes, which is bad for people with glaucoma.
Science says: TRUE AND FALSE
A study released in 2003 in the British Journal of Ophthalmology studied the effect of wearing a necktie on “intraocular pressure” (the pressure of the fluid inside the eyeballs) in men with and without glaucoma. They found that intraocular pressure (IOP) did increase in both groups of men when they tightened a necktie. Intraocular pressure is a risk factor for glaucoma and artificially raising it with a necktie might also interfere with measurement of IOP.
HOWEVER, in 2005, another study published in the Journal of Glaucoma took that research a step further. They measured the IOP in a group of glaucoma and non-glaucoma patients before wearing a tie, 3 minutes after tightening a tie, 15 minutes after tightening a tie, and then 3 minutes after loosening the tie. These researchers found that tightening the tie did increase IOP in some of the participants, but that IOP went back down after 15 minutes.
CONCLUSION: Tightening a necktie does raise intraocular pressure at first, but the body acclimates to necktie wear after a few minutes, and therefore, those with glaucoma do not need to avoid neckties.
Claim: Wearing a tight necktie can cause neck and shoulder pain in those who work at computers for extended periods of time.
Science says: TRUE
A group of Korean researchers published a study in 2011 that examined the effect of wearing a tight necktie on neck movement and upper trapezius (neck) muscles. It's already known that sitting at a computer in a slouched position can cause neck and shoulder problems – do neckties make this worse?
The researchers recruited a bunch of computer workers (some with neckties, some without) and measured the range of motion in their necks as well as how hard their trapezius muscles were working after extended time working at a computer.
RESULTS: Tight neckties reduced neck range of motion and caused the trapezius muscles to work harder.
CONCLUSION: If you're going to be working at a computer for a long time, loosen your necktie a bit to avoid neck and shoulder pain. And don't slouch!
Claim: Neckties can spread bacteria and disease.
Science says: TRUE
This was an important question to answer because doctors who wear unsecured neckties may be unintentionally spreading bacteria around. Therefore, this question has been studied in several experiments over the last few decades.
For instance, a study released in 2012 in the Journal of Hospital Infection examined whether ties and long sleeves transmitted bacteria.
- A certain relatively harmless bacteria was cultured and then swabbed onto doctors' ties and sleeves (short and long). Then, the doctors did routine examinations of simulated “patients” (mannequins lying in hospital beds), and these “patients” were then checked to see if the bacteria had spread.
RESULTS: Sleeve length didn't affect whether the bacteria had spread. However, doctors with unsecured ties spread the bacteria everywhere.
CONCLUSION: If you have a job that involves the risk of bacterial infection, consider wearing a bow tie – or no tie at all.
Rafferty, M., Quinn, T. J., Dawson, J., & Walters, M. (2011). Neckties and cerebrovascular reactivity in young healthy males: A pilot randomised crossover trial. Stroke Research and Treatment, 2011, 1-4. Link: https://www.researchgate.net/
Talty, P., & O'Brien, P. D. (2005). Does extended wear of a tight necktie cause raised intraocular pressure? Journal of Glaucoma, 14(6), 508-510. Link: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16276286
Teng, C., Gurses-Ozden, R., Liebmann, J. M., Tello, C., & Ritch, R. (2003). Effect of a tight necktie on intraocular pressure. British Journal of Opthalmology, 87(8), 946-948. Link: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1771792/
Weber, R. L., Khan, P. D., Fader, R. C., & Weber, R. A. (2012). Prospective study on the effect of shirt sleeves and ties on the transmission of bacteria to patients. Journal of Hospital Infection, 80, 252-254. Link: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22305288
Yoo, I., Kim, M., & Yoo, W. (2011). Effects of wearing a tight necktie on cervical range of motion and upper trapezius muscle activity during computer work. Work, 39, 261-266. Link: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21709362