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Occupational role stress is associated with higher cortisol reactivity to acute stress


Wirtz, Petra H; Ehlert, Ulrike; Kottwitz, Maria U; La Marca, Roberto; Semmer, Norbert K (2013). Occupational role stress is associated with higher cortisol reactivity to acute stress. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 18(2):121-31.

Abstract

We investigated whether occupational role stress is associated with differential levels of the stress hormone cortisol in response to acute psychosocial stress. Forty-three medication-free nonsmoking men aged between 22 and 65 years (mean ± SEM: 44.5 ± 2) underwent an acute standardized psychosocial stress task combining public speaking and mental arithmetic in front of an audience. We assessed occupational role stress in terms of role conflict and role ambiguity (combined into a measure of role uncertainty) as well as further work characteristics and psychological control variables including time pressure, overcommitment, perfectionism, and stress appraisal. Moreover, we repeatedly measured salivary cortisol and blood pressure levels before and after stress exposure, and several times up to 60 min thereafter. Higher role uncertainty was associated with a more pronounced cortisol stress reactivity (p = .016), even when controlling for the full set of potential confounders (p < .001). Blood pressure stress reactivity was not associated with role uncertainty. Our findings suggest that occupational role stress in terms of role uncertainty acts as a background stressor that is associated with increased HPA-axis reactivity to acute stress. This finding may represent a potential mechanism regarding how occupational role stress may precipitate adverse health outcomes. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2013 APA, all rights reserved).

Abstract

We investigated whether occupational role stress is associated with differential levels of the stress hormone cortisol in response to acute psychosocial stress. Forty-three medication-free nonsmoking men aged between 22 and 65 years (mean ± SEM: 44.5 ± 2) underwent an acute standardized psychosocial stress task combining public speaking and mental arithmetic in front of an audience. We assessed occupational role stress in terms of role conflict and role ambiguity (combined into a measure of role uncertainty) as well as further work characteristics and psychological control variables including time pressure, overcommitment, perfectionism, and stress appraisal. Moreover, we repeatedly measured salivary cortisol and blood pressure levels before and after stress exposure, and several times up to 60 min thereafter. Higher role uncertainty was associated with a more pronounced cortisol stress reactivity (p = .016), even when controlling for the full set of potential confounders (p < .001). Blood pressure stress reactivity was not associated with role uncertainty. Our findings suggest that occupational role stress in terms of role uncertainty acts as a background stressor that is associated with increased HPA-axis reactivity to acute stress. This finding may represent a potential mechanism regarding how occupational role stress may precipitate adverse health outcomes. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2013 APA, all rights reserved).

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8 citations in Scopus®
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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Psychology
Dewey Decimal Classification:150 Psychology
Language:English
Date:2013
Deposited On:08 May 2013 10:31
Last Modified:07 Dec 2017 21:09
Publisher:Educational Publishing Foundation, American Psychological Association
ISSN:1076-8998
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1037/a0031802
PubMed ID:23566275

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