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.

Primary themes in job stress research at NIOSH include:

  • To better understand the influence of what are commonly-termed “work organization” or “psychosocial” factors on stress, illness, and injury
  • To identify ways to redesign jobs to create safer and healthier workplaces

Examples of research topics at NIOSH within these two broad themes include:

  • Characteristics of healthy work organizations
  • Work organization interventions to promote safe and healthy working conditions
  • Surveillance of the changing nature of work
  • Work organization interventions to reduce musculoskeletal disorders among office operators
  • Work schedule designs to protect the health and well-being of workers
  • The effects of new organizational policies and practices on worker health and safety
  • Changing worker demographics (race/ethnicity, gender, and age) and worker safety and health
  • Work organization, cardiovascular disease, and depression
  • Psychological violence in the workplace
  • Publishes educational documents on work, stress, and health

Job Stress and NORA

In 1996, NIOSH established 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. (In this sense, the study of work organization and health subsumes the field of job stress.) This initiative is 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 has conferred 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. This effort culminated in the NIOSH report “The Changing Organization of Work and the Safety and Health of Working People.”

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). Its mission 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.  The HWD Research Agenda, developed by the HWD external council, identifies occupational risk factors, including job stress, that can affect the health, safety, and well-being of workers (CDC – NORA – Healthy Work Design and Well-Being Sector Agenda).


NIOSHTIC-2 is a searchable bibliographic database of occupational safety and health publications, documents, grant reports, and journal articles supported in whole or in part by NIOSH.
NIOSHTIC-2 search results on job stress

NIOSH Books, Reports, and Videos about Stress

Working with Stress Video

DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 2003-114d
A brief introduction to work stress issues for the worker and manager. Topics include the causes of job stress, physical and psychological effects, and what can be done to minimize job stress. The video is available in both DVD and VHS formats, and can also be viewed online. (17 minutes)
NIOSH Working with Stress Part 1 of 2
NIOSH Working with Stress Part 2 of 2

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