All About Job STRESS, Part 5: NIOSH Approach To Job Stress

National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Approach To Job Stress

On the basis of experience and research, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) favors the view that working conditions play a primary role in causing job stress.

How To Deal With Workplace Job Stress - A Handy Chart
Dealing With Workplace Job Stress

However, the role of individual factors is not ignored.

According to the NIOSH view, exposure to stressful working conditions (called job stressors) can have a direct influence on worker safety and health.

But as shown below, individual and other situational factors can intervene to strengthen or weaken this influence.

Examples of individual and situational factors that can help to reduce the effects of stressful working conditions include the following:

  • Balance between work and family or personal life
  • A support network of friends and coworkers
  • A relaxed and positive outlook

NIOSH Model of Job Stress

Conditions That May Lead to Job Stress

The Design of Tasks. Heavy workload, infrequent rest breaks, long work hours and shiftwork; hectic and routine tasks that have little inherent meaning, do not utilize workers’ skills, and provide little sense of control.

Management Style. Lack of participation by workers in decision- making, poor communication in the organization, lack of family-friendly policies.

Interpersonal Relationships. Poor social environment and lack of support or help from coworkers and supervisors.

Work Roles. Conflicting or uncertain job expectations, too much responsibility, too many “hats to wear.”

Job insecurity and lack of opportunity for growth, advancement, or promotion; rapid changes for which workers are unprepared.

Environmental Conditions. Unpleasant or dangerous physical conditions such as crowding, noise, air pollution, or ergonomic problems. Example: David is exposed to constant noise at work.

Job Stress And Health

Stress sets off an alarm in the brain, which responds by preparing the body for defensive action.

The nervous system is aroused and hormones are released to sharpen the senses, quicken the pulse, deepen respiration, and tense the muscles.

This response (sometimes called the fight or flight response) is important because it helps us defend against threatening situations.

The response is preprogrammed biologically.

Everyone responds in much the same way, regardless of whether the stressful situation is at work or home.

Short-lived or infrequent episodes of stress pose little risk.

But when stressful situations go unresolved, the body is kept in a constant state of activation, which increases the rate of wear and tear to biological systems.

Ultimately, fatigue or damage results, and the ability of the body to repair and defend itself can become seriously compromised.

As a result, the risk of injury or disease escalates.

In the past 20 years, many studies have looked at the relationship between job stress and a variety of ailments.

Mood and sleep disturbances, upset stomach and headache, and disturbed relationships with family and friends are examples of stress-related problems that are quick to develop and are commonly seen in these studies.

These early signs of job stress are usually easy to recognize.

But the effects of job stress on chronic diseases are more difficult to see because chronic diseases take a long time to develop and can be influenced by many factors other than stress.

Nonetheless, evidence is rapidly accumulating to suggest that stress plays an important role in several types of chronic health problems-especially cardiovascular disease, musculoskeletal disorders, and psychological disorders.

Health care expenditures are nearly 50% greater for workers who report high levels of stress. -Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine

 Read more about dealing with job stress:

Dealing With Job Stress: A Handy Chart

All About Job STRESS, Part 1
All About Job STRESS, Part 2
All About Job STRESS, Part 3
All About Job STRESS, Part 4

More Information about Job Stress:

National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health 4676 Columbia Parkway Cincinnati, Ohio 45226-1998 NIOSH provides information and publications about a wide range of occupational hazards, including job stress at Job Stress (/niosh/topics/stress/) , call 1-800-CDC-INFO, or order online at (

The Encyclopaedia of Occupational Health and Safety, 4th Edition (ISBN 92-2-109203-8) contains a comprehensive summary of the latest scientific information about the causes and effects of job stress (see Vol. 1, Chapter 5, Mental Health; Vol. 2, Chapter 34, Psychosocial and Organizational Factors). International Labour Office (ILO) Publications Center) 301-638-3152 P.O. Box 753 Waldorf, MD 20604 Other Publications about Job Stress (/niosh/topics/stress/) Go to the NIOSH job stress internet site, or call the NIOSH 800 number (1-800-35-NIOSH). Location of a Psychologist or Consultant in Your Area American Psychological Association (APA) 1-800-964-2000 750 First St., N.E. fax: 202-336-5723 Washington, DC 20002-4242

State psychological associations maintain a listing of licensed psychologists who may be able to help with stress-related issues. Call the APA or your State psychological association for more information, or refer to the APA internet site ( ( with this information .


Mention of any company name or product does not constitute endorsement by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

This document is in the public domain and may be freely copied or reprinted.

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