Psychosocial work environment and mental health—a meta-analytic review

Stephen Stansfeld, Bridget Candy
Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment & Health 2006, 32 (6): 443-62

OBJECTIVES: To clarify the associations between psychosocial work stressors and mental ill health, a meta-analysis of psychosocial work stressors and common mental disorders was undertaken using longitudinal studies identified through a systematic literature review.

METHODS: The review used a standardized search strategy and strict inclusion and quality criteria in seven databases in 1994-2005. Papers were identified from 24,939 citations covering social determinants of health, 50 relevant papers were identified, 38 fulfilled inclusion criteria, and 11 were suitable for a meta-analysis. The Comprehensive Meta-analysis Programme was used for decision authority, decision latitude, psychological demands, and work social support, components of the job-strain and iso-strain models, and the combination of effort and reward that makes up the effort-reward imbalance model and job insecurity. Cochran's Q statistic assessed the heterogeneity of the results, and the I2 statistic determined any inconsistency between studies.

RESULTS: Job strain, low decision latitude, low social support, high psychological demands, effort-reward imbalance, and high job insecurity predicted common mental disorders despite the heterogeneity for psychological demands and social support among men. The strongest effects were found for job strain and effort-reward imbalance.

CONCLUSIONS: This meta-analysis provides robust consistent evidence that (combinations of) high demands and low decision latitude and (combinations of) high efforts and low rewards are prospective risk factors for common mental disorders and suggests that the psychosocial work environment is important for mental health. The associations are not merely explained by response bias. The impact of work stressors on common mental disorders differs for women and men.

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