Job strain is a form of psychosocial stress that occurs in the workplace. One of the most common forms of stress, it is characterized by a combination of low salaries, high demands, and low levels of control over things such as raises and paid time off.[1] Stresses at work can be eustress, a positive type of stress, or distress, a negative type of stress.[2] Job strain in the workplace has proved to result in poor psychological health, and eventually physical health. Job strain has been a recurring issue for years and affects men and women differently.

Causes of work stress

Eustress causes

Examples of positive causes of stress in the workplace include starting a new job and receiving a raise. Both of these situations improve performance.[2]

Distress causes

On the negative side, one cause of job strain is low salaries.[3] Low pay causes job strain due to living expenses. Housing expenses are extremely high, which makes it difficult for minimum wage workers to afford housing. As the minimum wage increases, the cost of living increases as well.[4]

The second cause of job strain comes from excessive workloads. Being exhausted from overworking is a common stressor in the workplace and can often lead to poor communication between coworkers.[5] A 2019 survey by Cartridge People identified workload as the main cause of occupational stress.[6]

A lack of support from employers and employees may also cause stress. Making decisions and participating is a way of support from employers and employees.[7]

Health effects

When experiencing job strain in the form of distress at work, people are subject to headaches, stomachaches, sleep disturbances, short temper, and difficulty concentrating. Anxiety, insomnia, high blood pressure, a weakened immune system, and heart disease may occur if stress at work becomes more persistent.[3] A 2012 meta-analysis found a positive association between job strain and coronary heart disease risk.[1] A 2015 meta-analysis found a similar association between job strain and stroke; the association was especially strong for women.[8] Time poverty has been found to heighten the risk for depression, inflated BMI, and cardiovascular disease in women.[9] Job strain has been found to increase the risk of higher blood pressure,[10] but not obesity.[11]

Gender differences

Men and women react differently when exposed to work situations involving stress. A survey was taken by Canadian Community Health in 2012 that showed women experience higher job strain than men. It also showed that women feel they have lower levels of control, yet experience more coworker support, than men.[12] Because women have lower levels of control at work, they experience more mental health risks such as depression and anxiety. Men tend to suffer from physical risks such as heart disease from carrying higher roles at work.

A 2022 study by McKinsey & Company concluded that women are 41% more likely to be subjected to a toxic workplace culture and that their risk of burnout is elevated.[13][14]

A 2021 WHO study concluded that working 55+ hours a week raises the risk of stroke by 35% and the risk of dying from heart conditions by 17%, when compared to a 35-40 hour week.[15]

See also


  1. ^ a b Kivimäki, Mika; Nyberg, Solja T; Batty, G David; Fransson, Eleonor I; Heikkilä, Katriina; Alfredsson, Lars; Bjorner, Jakob B; Borritz, Marianne; Burr, Hermann; Casini, Annalisa; Clays, Els; De Bacquer, Dirk; Dragano, Nico; Ferrie, Jane E; Geuskens, Goedele A; Goldberg, Marcel; Hamer, Mark; Hooftman, Wendela E; Houtman, Irene L; Joensuu, Matti; Jokela, Markus; Kittel, France; Knutsson, Anders; Koskenvuo, Markku; Koskinen, Aki; Kouvonen, Anne; Kumari, Meena; Madsen, Ida EH; Marmot, Michael G; Nielsen, Martin L; Nordin, Maria; Oksanen, Tuula; Pentti, Jaana; Rugulies, Reiner; Salo, Paula; Siegrist, Johannes; Singh-Manoux, Archana; Suominen, Sakari B; Väänänen, Ari; Vahtera, Jussi; Virtanen, Marianna; Westerholm, Peter JM; Westerlund, Hugo; Zins, Marie; Steptoe, Andrew; Theorell, Töres (October 2012). "Job strain as a risk factor for coronary heart disease: a collaborative meta-analysis of individual participant data". The Lancet. 380 (9852): 1491–1497. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(12)60994-5. PMC 3486012. PMID 22981903.
  2. ^ a b "Types of Stressors (Eustress vs. Distress)". COPYRIGHT © 2019 MENTALHELP.NET. Retrieved November 15, 2019.
  3. ^ a b "Coping With Stress at Work". American Psychological Association. American Psychological Association. Retrieved November 3, 2019.
  4. ^ Imbert, Fred. "Cost of living is increasingly out of reach for low-wage workers". CNBC. CNBC LLC. Retrieved November 14, 2019.
  5. ^ Picincu, Andra. "The Effects of a Heavy Workload on Employees". bizfluent. Leaf Group LTD. Retrieved November 5, 2019.
  6. ^ "What's Causing UK Workers Stress in 2019". Retrieved 2023-10-28.
  7. ^ "Stress at the Workplace". World Health Organization. WHO. Retrieved November 6, 2019.
  8. ^ Huang, Y; Xu, S; Hua, J; Zhu, D; Liu, C; Hu, Y; Liu, T; Xu, D (10 November 2015). "Association between job strain and risk of incident stroke: A meta-analysis". Neurology. 85 (19): 1648–54. doi:10.1212/WNL.0000000000002098. PMID 26468409. S2CID 8477786.
  9. ^ "Time Poverty Is The Health Issue We're Not Paying Attention To But Should Be". Women's Health. 2021-09-02. Retrieved 2023-10-28.
  10. ^ Landsbergis, Paul A.; Dobson, Marnie; Koutsouras, George; Schnall, Peter (March 2013). "Job Strain and Ambulatory Blood Pressure: A Meta-Analysis and Systematic Review". American Journal of Public Health. 103 (3): e61–e71. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2012.301153. PMC 3673518. PMID 23327240.
  11. ^ Kivimäki, M; Singh-Manoux, A; Nyberg, S; Jokela, M; Virtanen, M (November 2015). "Job strain and risk of obesity: systematic review and meta-analysis of cohort studies". International Journal of Obesity. 39 (11): 1597–600. doi:10.1038/ijo.2015.103. PMC 4579559. PMID 26041697.
  12. ^ "Gender differences in the link between psychosocial work exposures and stress". Institute for Work and Health. Retrieved November 14, 2019.
  13. ^ McKinsey, & Company (2022). "Women in the Workplace" (PDF).
  14. ^ Sull, Donald; Sull, Charles (2023-03-14). "The Toxic Culture Gap Shows Companies Are Failing Women". MIT Sloan Management Review.
  15. ^ Pega, Frank; Náfrádi, Bálint; Momen, Natalie C.; Ujita, Yuka; Streicher, Kai N.; Prüss-Üstün, Annette M.; Descatha, Alexis; Driscoll, Tim; Fischer, Frida M.; Godderis, Lode; Kiiver, Hannah M.; Li, Jian; Magnusson Hanson, Linda L.; Rugulies, Reiner; Sørensen, Kathrine (2021-09-01). "Global, regional, and national burdens of ischemic heart disease and stroke attributable to exposure to long working hours for 194 countries, 2000–2016: A systematic analysis from the WHO/ILO Joint Estimates of the Work-related Burden of Disease and Injury" (PDF). Environment International. 154: 106595. doi:10.1016/j.envint.2021.106595. ISSN 0160-4120.