A case history of industrial mass psychogenic illness is reported. About 75 employees of a shoe factory (SIC-3143) reported symptoms of headache, lightheadedness, and dizziness on two separate occasions within a 1 week period. Air samples were collected and analyzed, affected workers were interviewed, and questionnaires were distributed to a random sample of workers. Extensive environmental testing failed to identify any toxic agents. Physicians characterized the physical symptomatology as hyperventilation syndrome, suggesting a psychogenic as opposed to a toxicological etiology. Most survey variables that correlated with the illness, pertained to work environment factors; these included dissatisfaction with physical characteristics of the workplace, overtime pressures, and workload dissatisfaction. Workers who witnessed others become ill also reported experiencing more symptoms. The authors conclude that the outbreak represents a case of industrial mass psychogenic illness precipitated by a combination of physical and psychological job and life stressors.
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