Psychosocial hazard

A psychosocial hazard or work stressor is any occupational hazard that affects the psychological and physical well-being of workers, including their ability to participate in a work environment among other people. Psychosocial hazards are related to the way work is designed, organized and managed, as well as the economic and social contexts of work. They are associated with psychiatric, psychological and/or physical injury or illness, such as occupational burnout, anxiety disorders, depression (mood), hypertension and Cardiovascular Disease. Psychosocial risks are linked to the organization of work as well as workplace violence (a psychosocial hazard) and are recognized internationally as major challenges to occupational safety and health as well as productivity.[1]


According to a survey by the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work, the most important psychosocial hazards — work stressors — are:[1]


Exposure to psychosocial hazards in the workplace not only produces psychological and physiological damage to individual employees, but also produces further repercussions within society - reducing productivity in local/state economies, corroding familial/interpersonal relationships, and producing negative behavioral outcomes.[2][3]


Occupational stress, anxiety, and depression can be directly correlated to psychosocial hazards in the workplace.[4]


Supported by strong evidence from a plethora of meticulous cross-sectional and longitudinal studies, a link has been indicated between the psychosocial work environment and consequences on employees’ physical health. Increasing evidence indicates that four main physiological systems are effected: hypertension and heart disease, wound-healing, musculoskeletal disorders, gastro-intestinal disorders, and impaired immuno-competence.[5] Additional disorders generally recognized as stress-induced include: bronchitis, coronary heart disease, mental illness, thyroid disorders, skin diseases, certain types of rheumatoid arthritis, obesity, tuberculosis, headaches and migraine, peptic ulcers and ulcerative colitis, and diabetes.[6]

Social and behavioral

Exposure to workplace psychosocial hazards has been strongly correlated with a wide spectrum of unhealthy behaviors such as physical inactivity, excessive alcohol and drug consumption, nutritional imbalance and sleep disturbances.[7] In 2003, a cross-sectional survey of 12,110 employees from 26 different workplace environments was established to examine the relationship between subjective workplace stress and healthy activity. The survey quantified the measurement of stress mainly through evaluation of an individual's perceived locus of control in the workplace (although other variables were also examined). The results concluded that self-reported high levels of stress were associated with, across both sexes: diets with a higher concentration of fat, less exercise, cigarette smoking (and increasing use), and less self-efficacy to control smoking habits.[8]


Across the European Union, work-related stress alone affects over 40 million individuals, costing an estimated €20 billion a year in lost productivity.[9]

See also


  1. Brun, Emmanuelle; Milczarek, Malgorzata (2007). "Expert forecast on emerging psychosocial risks related to occupational safety and health". European Agency for Safety and Health at Work. Retrieved September 3, 2015.
  2. Schaufeli, W.B., & Greenglass, E.R. (2001). Introduction to special issue on burnout and health. Psychology and Health, 16, 501-510.
  3. EU-OSHA (2007). Expert forecast on emerging psychosocial risks related to occupational safety and health. Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Communities.
  4. Middeldorp, C.M., Cath, D.C., & Boomsma, D.I. (2006). A twin-family study of the association between employment, burnout and anxious depression. Journal of Affective Disorders, 90, 163- 169.
  5. Tom Cox; Amanda Griffiths; Eusebio Rial-González (2000). Research on Work-related Stress. Luxembourg: Office for Official Publication of The European Communities. p. 167. ISBN 92-828-9255-7. Retrieved 5 September 2015.
  6. Marmot, M., Bosma, H., Hemingway, H., Brunner, E., & Stansfeld, S. (1997). Contribution of job control and other risk factors to social variations in coronary heart disease incidence. The Lancet, 350, 235-239.
  7. Cox, T., Griffiths, A., & Rial-Gonzalez, E. (2000). Research on work related stress. Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Communities.
  8. Ng, D.M., & Jeffery, R.W. (2003). Relationships between perceived stress and health behaviors in a sample of working adults. Health Psychology, 22(6), 638-642.
  9. EU-OSHA (2002). How to tackle psychosocial issues and reduce work-related stress. Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Communities.
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