Psychosocial work conditions, unemployment and self-reported psychological health: a population-based study

Martin Lindström
Occupational Medicine 2005, 55 (7): 568-71

AIM: To investigate the association between psychosocial conditions at work, unemployment and self-reported psychological health.

METHODS: A cross-sectional postal questionnaire for the 2000 public health survey in Scania was administered to both working and unemployed people aged 18-64 years. Logistic regression models were used to investigate the association between psychosocial factors at work/unemployment and self-reported psychological health (General Health Questionnaire 12). Psychosocial conditions at work were classified according to the Karasek-Theorell demand-control/decision latitudes into relaxed, active, passive and job strain. The multivariate analyses included age, country of origin, education, economic stress and social participation.

RESULTS: A total of 5180 people returned their questionnaire, giving a participation rate of 59%. Fifteen per cent of men and 20% of women reported poor psychological health. Those with high demands and high control (active category), those with high demands and low control (job strain category) and the unemployed had significantly higher odds ratios of poor psychological health compared to those with low demands and high control (relaxed category). Those with low demands and low control (passive category) did not differ significantly from the relaxed category. The associations remained in the multivariate analyses.

CONCLUSIONS: The study found that certain psychosocial work factors are associated with higher levels of self-reported psychological ill-health and illustrates the great importance of psychosocial conditions in determining psychological health at the population level. As found elsewhere, being unemployed was an even stronger predictor of psychological ill-health.

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