In particular, we will examine if work factors (leadership, workaholism, role conflict, alcohol and bullying) through physiological or epigenetic changes may contribute to chronic pain, early retirement and increase the risk of disability pensioning. A combination of many types of data regarding psychosocial problems, microRNA/DNA changes, pain and sickness absenteeism are used.

The results so far in the project show that social stress may be associated with regulation of several circulating microRNA, which in turn are associated with anxiety or pain. The data also show that social stress influence on the immune system, which in turn may have many negative health effects.

Whether or not these physiological changes also include increased or reduced methylation of DNA in genes that is important for the HPA-axis, remains to be investigated.


Info about the project

Project period: 2015 – 2021

Project leader: Johannes Gjerstad

Phone: +47 408 57 0 57




[1] Aslaksen PM, Forsberg JT, Gjerstad J. The opioid receptor mu 1 (OPRM1) rs1799971 and catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) rs4680 as genetic markers for placebo analgesia. Pain 2018; 159(12): 2585-2592.

[2] Forsberg JT, Gjerstad J, Flaten MA, Aslaksen PM. Influence of catechol-O-methyltransferase Val158Met on fear of pain and placebo analgesia. Pain 2018; 159(1): 168-174.

[3] Glambek M, Nielsen MB, Gjerstad J, Einarsen S. Gender differences in the relationship between workplace bullying and subjective back and neck pain: A two-wave study in a Norwegian probability sample. J Psychosom Res 2018; 106: 73-75.

[4] Jacobsen DP, Nielsen MB, Einarsen S, Gjerstad J. Negative social acts and pain: evidence of a workplace bullying and 5-HTT genotype interaction. Scand J Work Environ Health 2018; 44(3): 283-290.

[5] Nielsen MB, Gjerstad J, Frone M. Alcohol use among Norwegian workers: associations with health and well-being. Occup Med (Lond) 2018; 68(2): 96-98.

[6] Nielsen MB, Gjerstad J, Frone MR. Alcohol Use and Psychosocial Stressors in the Norwegian Workforce. Subst Use Misuse 2018; 53(4): 574-584.

[7] Nielsen MB, Gjerstad J, Jacobsen DP, Einarsen SV. Does Ability to Defend Moderate the Association between Exposure to Bullying and Symptoms of Anxiety? Front Psychol 2017; 8: 1953.

[8] Andreassen CS, Nielsen MB, Pallesen S, Gjerstad J. The Relationship Between Psychosocial Work Variables and Workaholism: Findings From a Nationally Representative Survey. Int J Stress Man 2017 10.1037/str0000073.

[9] Nielsen MB, Indregard AM, Overland S. Workplace bullying and sickness absence: a systematic review and meta-analysis of the research literature. Scand J Work Environ Health 2016; 42(5): 359-370.

[10] Nielsen MB, Mageroy N, Gjerstad J, Einarsen S. Workplace bullying and subsequent health problems. Tidsskr Nor Laegeforen 2014; 134(12-13): 1233-1238.