Occupational Stress: Issues and Developments in Research. Hurrell JJ Jr., Murphy LR, Sauter SL, Cooper CL, eds., New York: Taylor and Francis, 1988 Apr; :1-219
Workers in increasing numbers are claiming that stress in the workplace has caused them some form of disability. A recent study by the U.S. National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI, 1984), for example, indicated that claims involving mental disorders caused by stress accounted for nearly 11 percent of all occupational claims between 1980 and 1982. The severity of such problems are reflected in a recent study (Fischback et al., 1986) which found that among US Social Security Administration disability allowances, mental disorders were the third most disabling condition preceded only by musculoskeletal injuries and circulatory diseases. However, despite the increased appreciation of stress as an occupational health problem, our understanding of causes and effects is far from complete. A major limiting factor has to do with our approaches to stress research. Indeed, a variety of conceptual, methodological and measurement problems in this research area have been identified. Kasl (1978) has noted that survey studies of occupational stress often fail to distinguish between measures of stressors and measures of resulting strain. Likewise, record studies are not without faults. For example, over 40 different measures of absenteeism exist and it is clear that they do not represent a homogeneous set of behaviours (Muchinsky, 1977; Clegg, 1983). Conceptually, absence from work may reflect ill-health, personnel policies, and/or various sociodemographic, economic and occupational factors. Even in the controlled confines of the laboratory, there are pitfalls. Here for example, psychophysiological measures have presented difficulties. In the case of blood pressure, issues surrounding basal pressure variability (Schulte et al., 1984), interactions of personality (e.g. Type A) with task demands (Dembrowski et al., 1978) and regression to the mean (Shepard and Finison, 1983) represent a few contaminating factors. This book addresses these research issues and aims to stimulate improvements in methods for assessing stressful job environments and attendant health, safety and performance consequences. The volume is divided into two parts. Chapters in the first part deal with Stressors while chapters in the second part are concerned with the Physiological Consequences of Stress. Chapter 1 provides an overview of work environment factors that have been identified as sources of employee stress while Chapter 2 provides a perspective on the specific methodologies needed to measure different types of stressors. Chapter 3 focuses on the content and psychometric properties of scales commonly used in occupational stress research. The next three chapters contain recommendations for improving methods and measurement in this research via situationally anchored scales (Chapter 4), epidemiological problem analysis (Chapter 5) and more precise operationalization of constructs (Chapter 6), respectively. Chapter 7 discusses the role of personality in dampening the negative impact of job stressors. The last chapter in Part I (Chapter 8) presents a social action model which, in contrast to traditional stress research paradigms, emphasizes worker involvement in the research process and self-definition of stressors. Part II deals with physiological consequences of stress. Chapters 9 and 10 provide an indepth critique of various methods and measures employed. Chapter 11 emphasizes the implications of cardiovascular hyper-responsiveness to stressful conditions while perceptual and physiological correlates of self-reported stress, physical symptoms and health are examined in Chapter 12. The last chapter (Chapter 13) proposes a triangulation approach to the study of stress incorporating both biomedical and behavioural measures.