Historical and Current Perspectives on Stress and Health: Volume 2

Cover of Historical and Current Perspectives on Stress and Health

Table of contents

(9 chapters)

This chapter presents an overview of job stress research at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) from its inception in 1972 through current and proposed research in 2002. During this 30-year period, NIOSH funded a wide range of job stress projects and a detailed account of each is not possible in a single chapter. In some cases, the research will be discussed in great depth, especially if the work was unique to NIOSH (e.g. mass psychogenic illness) or was large in magnitude (e.g. Job Demands and Worker Health study). In many other cases, however, the research will be mentioned briefly and citations provided. Since many of the early reports referenced in this chapter are long out of print, the chapter makes liberal use of “Text Boxes” that contain sections of narrative text from NIOSH reports. The inclusion of such narrative text will provide the reader with a more authentic ‘feel’ for the research than would a summary statement.The chapter does not include NIOSH research in the areas of ergonomics, musculoskeletal disorders, or indoor air pollution, although psychosocial factors and job stress were elements of many studies in these areas.

With occupational stress representing just one example, different streams of research have emerged over the past several decades to explain the antecedents to and consequences of possessing a “healthy” workforce. A positive characteristic of these seemingly independent efforts is that a triangulation of results has emerged supporting the importance of attending to the health and well being of the individual worker. A drawback to these efforts, though, is that while utilizing at times the identical constructs, these constructs are configured differently depending on the conceptual premises of the focal framework. In an attempt to bring the different perspectives together, a model of the “healthy work organization” is presented and tested in this chapter. The model recognizes that there are higher-order constructs characterizing many of the component constructs of the previous efforts, and it is at this level that much of the unification of those efforts is achieved. Utilizing structural equation modeling procedures, the healthy work organization model was supported.

Individual health and organizational health have been conceptualized in several ways. This chapter discusses some of these conceptualizations of health including both the medical model, which characterizes health as the absence of illness, and other models, which characterizes health as optimal functioning not just the absence of illness. It is proposed that the literature on occupational stress, positive psychology, and the emerging literature on emotions in the work environment may be useful in extending our understanding and conceptualization of individual and organizational health. The literatures on pay structure and dispersion as well as organizational learning are reviewed. It is posited that these two organizational phenomena can be used to develop theoretical and empirical support for understanding organizational health, individual health, and the linkage between the two from both a positive health and ill health perspective.

Studies investigating the crossover of job stress and strain between partners have shown that job demands are transmitted from job incumbents to their partners, affecting their psychological and physical health. Based on the crossover literature and on models of job stress and the work-family interface, this chapter develops a comprehensive framework to integrate the literature conceptually, delineating the mechanisms that underlie the crossover process. Three main mechanisms that can account for the apparent effects of a crossover process are specified. These mechanisms include common stressors, empathic reactions, and an indirect mediating process. Gaps in the literature are identified, recommendations for future research are proposed, and the implications for organizational theory and practice are discussed.

One significant trend in human resource practice that dominated the 1990s was the move away from traditional, full-time employment toward a variety of different forms of alternative work arrangements. Accompanying this trend was a growing concern about the effects of alternative forms of work for well being. We first review the different forms of alternative work arrangements, which vary in terms of temporal, numerical and locational flexibility. Thereafter, the effects of different forms of alternative work arrangements (e.g. part-time employment, job-sharing, outsourcing) on psychological and physical well being, and occupational safety and health are evaluated. We conclude by noting that alternative work arrangements do not necessarily exert uniformly negative effects on well being. Instead, the importance of the volitionality with which individuals assume alternative work arrangements must be considered: When individuals choose such arrangements because they want to, any potential negative effects are minimized. In contrast, when individuals assume such work arrangements because of a lack of perceived alternatives, there is a greater risk for negative effects. Finally, the need for future research which more rigorously accounts for the conceptual differences across alternative work arrangements is noted.

In this chapter, we integrate occupational stress theory with emerging analytic and theoretical considerations related to multilevel modeling. We begin by differentiating among models at different levels, and identify the inferential errors that can inadvertently arise when applying occupational stress findings to organizations. Second, we discuss the basic framework for using multilevel modeling to study occupational stress processes over time. Finally, we apply the implications of the first two sections to a popular occupational stress model. In so doing, we show how multilevel theory and methodology can be used to enhance our understanding of occupational stress processes. The conclusion of this chapter is that multilevel theory and analytic techniques have much to offer occupational stress researchers from both a theoretical and methodological perspective.

All major contracts in social life, including the work contract, are based on the principle of reciprocity. A fair balance between the costs invested in cooperative activities and the gains received in turn is a prerequisite of a trustful social exchange and individual well being. Conversely, failed reciprocity in terms of high cost and low gain elicits strong negative emotions and associated stress responses. The model of effort-reward imbalance has been developed to identify conditions of failed reciprocity in social contracts, with a particular focus on work, and to predict reduced well being and increased illness susceptibility as a consequence of this exposure. This chapter describes the theoretical foundation of this model and its measurement. Moreover it summarizes empirical evidence on adverse effects on health derived from epidemiological and laboratory investigations. Finally, some policy implications of this new evidence are discussed.

This chapter explores the relationship between workplace bullying and occupational stress. Initially the concept of bullying and its defining features are introduced. Following a brief discussion of bullying and the stress process, an examination of possible stressors as antecedents of bullying is undertaken. Drawing on the empirical evidence available, individual and organizational effects and outcomes of bullying are described. Attention is also paid to the relationship between bullying and the coping process. It is concluded that, despite the fact that evidence is often sparse, a substantial body of research emerged within less than a decade, providing sufficient evidence to suggest that bullying is an important psychosocial hazard in the workplace with very substantial negative implications for individuals and organizations alike. Some methodological concerns are discussed and implications for future research highlighted.

Cover of Historical and Current Perspectives on Stress and Health
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Book series
Research in Occupational Stress and Well Being
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Emerald Publishing Limited
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