At the time the occupational-health psychology knowledge was based on studies of a small number of broad dimensions defined by three dominant theories: the Demands-Control model, the Effort-reward imbalance model, and social support.

Project information

This project introduced novel original elements in order to enhance potential scientific and practical impact:

(A) The survey instrument included a comprehensive range of specific work factors (psychological task-related factors; social-interaction factors; organizational factors) since practitioners need information pertaining to specific factors to detect challenges and design measures and improvements. Including the broader spectrum of factors in the same study enables determining which associations are robust and of practical significance. Previous knowledge was limited to a small number of rather broad and general dimensions some of which compound factors that are clearly separate constructs (e.g., amount of work versus conflict).

(B) Several outcomes were included (somatic and mental symptoms, mental distress, exhaustion, work ability, functional ability, positive affect, sickness absence, disability pension).

(C) Several potentially moderating or confounding factors were included (health-related behaviors, motive values, attitudes, personality traits, coping patterns).

(D) The participating organizations provided job-level codes (based on the ISCO-system).

(E) Participating organizations provided information of their situation with an organization-survey.

The design was prospective, full panel, allowing analyses of both (I) cross-sectional, (II) prospective, and (III) reverse-causality associations.

Participating organizations received unit-level results of surveys (frequency distributions) to identify the percentage of employees who reported potential challenges.

Key Research Insights

So far, more than 40 peer-reviewed scientific articles from this project have revealed critical insights about psychosocial work characteristics and health. By investigating several factors concomitantly, we were able to determine which factors exhibit robust associations with health, well-being, and disability. We discovered that some factors which are often subsumed under broader dimensions are more significant risk factors when considered independently. We identified role conflict as one of the most consistent risk factors overall. Amount of work (quantitative workload), which is often combined with role conflict in measuring “job demands”, seemed less important. Similar insights were gained for other factors.

Specific Findings with Societal Impact

Documenting effects of specific work factors provide practical information for businesses. For instance, advice to “remove role conflict by clarifying, synchronizing, and harmonizing expectations from different levels of management” is more actionable than “reduce job demands and stress”.

We documented the relative importance of specific factors, e.g., fair and empowering leadership, emotional dissonance, and positive workplace challenges.

Our studies also showed that shared or open-plan offices are associated with higher risks of absence and disability retirement than cellular offices.

Specific modifiable factors can be targeted in improvement efforts. Hence, knowledge from this project should contribute to improving occupational health substantially.

Key STAMI scientist of the project

Stein Knardahl, M.D., Ph.D. (project initiator)

Jan Olav Christensen, Ph.D.

Morten Birkeland Nielsen, Ph.D.

Live Bakke Finne, Ph.D.

Jan S. Emberland, Ph.D.

PhD Theses

Lise Fløvik, Ph.D.: “A Healthy Change? The impact of organizational changes on the organization’s psychosocial work environment and employee mental health». Inst. Psychol, Univ of Oslo. Dissertation 27.08.20.

Jan S Emberland, Ph-D.: “Contribution of occupational psychological and social factors to low work ability and disability retirement”. Inst. Basic Med. Sci., Univ of Oslo. Dissertation 19.06.19.

Anne-Marthe Rustad Indregard, Ph.D.: Emotional dissonance, mental health complains, and sickness absence among employees working with customers and clients. Inst. Psychol, Univ of Oslo. Dissertation 25.01.19.

Jolien Vleeshouwers, Ph.D., Psychological and social work factors as contributors to sleep problems and number of musculoskeletal complaints, Inst. Psychol., Univ of Oslo, Dissertation 15.06.18.

Live Bakke Finne, Ph.D.: “Influence of psychological and social factors on mental health”. Inst- Psychol., NTNU. Dissertation 07.10.16.

Jan Olav Christensen, Ph.D.: “Effects of psychological and social work factors on musculoskeletal pain complaints and headache”. Inst. Psychol, Univ of Oslo. Dissertation 24.03.14.