Job demands and job strain as risk factors for employee wellbeing in elderly care: an instrumental-variables analysis

Marko Elovainio, Tarja Heponiemi, Hannamaria Kuusio, Markus Jokela, Anna-Mari Aalto, Laura Pekkarinen, Anja Noro, Harriet Finne-Soveri, Mika Kivimäki, Timo Sinervo
European Journal of Public Health 2015, 25 (1): 103-8

BACKGROUND: The association between psychosocial work environment and employee wellbeing has repeatedly been shown. However, as environmental evaluations have typically been self-reported, the observed associations may be attributable to reporting bias.

METHODS: Applying instrumental-variable regression, we used staffing level (the ratio of staff to residents) as an unconfounded instrument for self-reported job demands and job strain to predict various indicators of wellbeing (perceived stress, psychological distress and sleeping problems) among 1525 registered nurses, practical nurses and nursing assistants working in elderly care wards.

RESULTS: In ordinary regression, higher self-reported job demands and job strain were associated with increased risk of perceived stress, psychological distress and sleeping problems. The effect estimates for the associations of these psychosocial factors with perceived stress and psychological distress were greater, but less precisely estimated, in an instrumental-variables analysis which took into account only the variation in self-reported job demands and job strain that was explained by staffing level. No association between psychosocial factors and sleeping problems was observed with the instrumental-variable analysis.

CONCLUSIONS: These results support a causal interpretation of high self-reported job demands and job strain being risk factors for employee wellbeing.

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