About Stress at Work

Key points

  • Job stress happens when the requirements of a job do not match the capabilities, resources, or needs of the worker.
  • Job stress can lead to poor health and even injury.
Young African American businessman experiencing stress during work


Job Stress

Job stress can be defined as the harmful physical and emotional responses that occur when the requirements of a job do not match the capabilities, resources, or needs of the worker. Job stress can lead to poor health and even injury.

Job Stress Research at NIOSH Include:

  • Understanding the influence of what are commonly termed "work organization" or "psychosocial" factors on stress, illness, and inury.
  • Identifying ways to redesign jobs to create safer and healthier workplaces.

Stress Research Activities at NIOSH Includes:

  • Defining characteristics of healthy work organizations
  • Developing work organization interventions to promote safe and healthy work conditions
  • Surveilling the changing nature of work
  • Designing work schedule to protect the health and well-being of workers
  • Studying the effects of new organizational policies and practices on worker health and safety
  • Examining changing worker demographics (race/ethnicity, gender, and age) and worker safety and health
  • Investigating work organization, cardiovascular disease, and depression
  • Researching psychological violence in the workplace
  • Publishing educational documents on work, stress, and health

Job Stress and NORA

National Occupational Research Agenda (NORA)

Organization of Work Team

In 1996, NIOSH established the Organization of Work team consisting of an interdisciplinary team of researchers and practitioners from industry, labor, and academia to develop a national research agenda on the “organization of work.” Work organization refers to management and supervisory practices, to production processes, and to their influence on the way work is performed.

This Team was part of a broader, collaborative effort by NIOSH external partners to spearhead a "National Occupational Research Agenda" (NORA) to guide occupational safety and health research into the future, not only for NIOSH, but for the entire U.S. occupational safety and health community.

During its tenure, the organization of work team worked with academic, industry, and labor stakeholders to identify essential research and other requirements to better understand how work organization is changing, the safety and health implications of these changes, and prevention measures. The team developed the NIOSH report "The Changing Organization of Work and the Safety and Health of Working People."

Healthy Work Design and Well-Being Cross- Sector Program

In 2016, at the beginning of the third decade of NORA NIOSH established the Healthy Work Design and Well-Being (HWD) Cross-Sector Program (Healthy Work Design and Well-Being Program | NIOSH | CDC).

The mission of the program is to protect and advance worker safety, health, and well-being by improving the design of work, management practices, and the physical and psychosocial work environment.

Job stress is identified as a priority area of the program

NIOSH Stress Resources

Stress...At Work Booklet

DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 99-101 (1999) This booklet highlights knowledge about the causes of stress at work and outlines steps that can be taken to prevent job stress.

Worker Health Chartbook 2004: Anxiety, Stress, and Neurotic Disorders

DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 2004-146 (2004) Provides data for anxiety and stress disorders based on magnitude and trend, age, sex race/ethnicity, severity, occupation, and industry.

Other NIOSH pages on stress

NIOSH Stress Blogs

NIOSH Healthy Work Design Blogs

NIOSH Occupational Health Psychology

NIOSH Quality of Worklife Questionnaire

Work and Fatigue

Traumatic Incident Stress

Cardiovascular Disease and Work

Aircraft Safety and Health - Job Stress

Work, Stress, and Health Conference

Search the NIOSHTIC-2 search results on job stress to find additional occupational safety and health publications on this topic from NIOSH or a NIOSH-supported projects.

Stress Videos