A survey was conducted to evaluate the influence of different conditions in the objective working environment, e.g., occupation, pay, type of work, employer and type and size of workplace; and on the work experience, i.e., the subjective working environment. An investigation was also made of reactions to objective and subjective working environment, e.g., psychological, behavioral or medical reactions. The survey was carried out in the form of a postal questionnaire comprising about 100 questions. It was sent to 12,000 salaried persons in 17 different job groups. Approximately one- third experienced work as very often or quite often mentally strenuous, while one-fourth replied that they seldom or never found their work a strain. Confinement to work or difficulty in getting away from one's job on short notice was strongly associated with mental strain. The number of persons feeling that they are too closely controlled in their everyday work is twice as large in the mentally strenuous group as in the other group. Factors felt to be the main causes of mental strain at work were heavy responsibility, need for close concentration, shortage of time, excessive work load, and the demands of outsiders. Psychological reactions, such as absenteeism and aversion to social contact, are connected to level of perceived mental strain. Behavioral reaction patterns are also connected to mental strain. Of those experiencing no mental strain, 43% have seriously considered changing jobs, as opposed to 24% in the group of respondents experiencing no mental strain. Persons with perceived mental stress have a higher frequency of medical complaints in the form of gastric or nervous trouble. Psychological and psychosomatic responses occur to a great extent simultaneously. Results suggest that monotonous and rigidly controlled jobs involving uncertainty and conflict lead to nervous system complaints. Conditions in the objective work environment, in the organization of work and in job content influence the individual person's experience of his work and generate psychological and behavioral reactions as well as medical complaints.
Reducing Occupational Stress, Proceedings of a Conference May 10-12, 1977, at the Westchester Division, New York Medical Center, White Plains, New York, Division of Biomedical and Behavioral Science, NIOSH, Cincinnati, Oh, DHEW Publication No. 78-140, NIOSH Contract No. 210-77-0041