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Mass psychogenic illness in organization: an overview.
Colligan MJ; Murphy LR
J Occup Psychol 1979 Jun; 52(2):77-90
Sixteen reports of organizational group psychogenic illness were reviewed. Seven cases involved work environments; nine occurred in school settings. In 15 of the 16 incidents, 93 percent of the affected groups were female. Research concerning personality characteristics of the affected individuals was inconclusive, but histories of absenteeism prior to the contagious outbreak were common. Psychosocial characteristics identified as potential precipitating conditions were: formally structured work or education settings involving well defined roles and regimentation; industrial jobs involving repetitive, perceptual motor tasks performed at fixed work stations with fixed production paces; unwanted overtime and pressure to increase production; physical stressors; poor relations between labor and management; and limited interpersonal communication among workers. The contagion of symptoms also is discussed in terms of the convergence/contagion dichotomy in collective behavior. The author suggests that the most effective way to end an epidemic episode may be careful debriefing of the workforce as to the nature and dynamics of contagious psychogenic illness.
NIOSH-Author; Psychological-effects; Job-stress; Epidemiology; Medical-research; Repetitive-work; Work-performance; Sociological-factors; Working-pressure; Factory-workers; Performance-capability; Occupational-health-programs; Human-engineering; Behavioral-disorders
Michael J. Colligan, DHEW, PHS, CDC, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Division of Biomedical and Behavioral Science, 4676 Columbia Parkway, Cincinnati, Ohio 45226
Issue of Publication
Journal of Occupational Psychology
Page last reviewed: November 13, 2020
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division