Discrepancy between objective and subjective measures of job stress and sickness absence

Rehkopf, DH; Kuper, H; Marmot, MG; (2010) Discrepancy between objective and subjective measures of job stress and sickness absence. Scandinavian journal of work, environment & health, 36 (6). pp. 449-457. ISSN 0355-3140

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Objectives The aim of this study was to examine the association of the discrepancy between externally and self-assessed measures of work environment with long- and short-term sickness absence. Methods The study population included 6997 middle-aged men and women from the Whitehall II cohort, whose work characteristics were examined at baseline (1985-1988) through both an external evaluation and self-report, with a follow-up of up to 13 years of sickness absence reporting from administrative records. The primary exposure of interest was the discrepancy between measures of work stress for fast job pace, conflicting demands, and decision latitude. Results In mutually adjusted models, external measures of job characteristics were more strongly associated with higher rates of sickness absence compared with self-assessed measures, for both lower frequency of fast work pace and lower conflicting demands (ie "passive" levels). Individuals who self-reported higher frequencies of fast work pace and conflicting demands than were reported through external assessment had higher rates of short-term sickness absence [incident rate ratios (IRR) of 1.13 [95% confidence interval (95% CI) 1.11-1.15] and IRR 1.14 (95% CI 1.11-1.16), respectively]. There was no difference in rates of sickness absence found for decision latitude [IRR 1.02(95% CI 1.00-1.04)]. Conclusions Our findings demonstrate that the discrepancy between externally and self-assessed job demand measures have additional predictive power beyond each individual measure of job structure, which may be related to the extent of cognitive and emotional processing of assessment questions as compared to decision latitude measures.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: conflicting demand, decision latitude, demand-control, job discretion, job strain, measurement method, strain, work pace, CORONARY-HEART-DISEASE, BRITISH CIVIL-SERVANTS, WHITEHALL-II, STRAIN, WORK, ENVIRONMENT, MORTALITY, RISK
Faculty and Department: Faculty of Infectious and Tropical Diseases > Dept of Clinical Research
Research Centre: The International Centre for Evidence in Disability
International Centre for Eye Health
Centre for Global Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs)
PubMed ID: 20725704
Web of Science ID: 283701800004
URI: http://researchonline.lshtm.ac.uk/id/eprint/2065


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