Occupational health research round-up: January 2017

A survey found decreased sound tolerance could be considered as a possible new aspect of multiple chemical sensitivity.

Among this month’s occupational health research reports are studies on noise sensitivity and multiple chemical sensitivity, and leadership responses to bullying.

Noise sensitivity and multiple chemical sensitivity

This study investigates the presence of noise sensitivity in patients suffering from multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS), a chronic condition characterised by several symptoms following low-level chemical exposure. Using a questionnaire-based survey, it finds a strong positive correlation between sensitivity to noise in a group of 18 MCS patients. This prompts the authors to suggest that decreased sound tolerance could be considered as a possible new aspect of MCS, contributing to its peculiar phenotype.

Viziano A et al. “Noise sensitivity and hyperacusis in patients affected by multiple chemical sensitivity”. International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health, published online 12 November 2016.

Back pain in nursing homes

The use of a safe resident handling programme, including the deployment of lifting devices, in a nursing home is a strong predictor of reduced lower back pain among staff. Frequent, intense aerobic exercise also appears to reduce the risk, the survey suggests. The prevalence of back pain was associated with a history of physical exposure, psychological job demands and prior injury, it also finds.

Gold JE et al. “Predictors of low back pain in nursing home workers after implementation of a safe resident handling programme”. Occupational & Environmental Medicine, published online 10 November 2016.

Leadership responses to bullying

The role of leadership in workplace bullying, particularly how managers respond when it occurs in a team, is more complex than previously thought, this study based on in-depth interviews suggests. It identifies four types of management response, each underpinned by contextual factors at the individual, group and organisational level.

Woodrow C and Guest D. “Leadership and approaches to the management of workplace bullying”. European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, published online 21 October 2016.

Organisational justice and insomnia

Organisational justice is a risk factor for the onset of insomnia, even after adjusting for lifestyle and work-related variables, according to this study. Organisational justice (OJ) was measured using a Japanese version of an OJ questionnaire, which has four components: distributive, procedural, interpersonal and informational justice. The study finds that the interpersonal justice component is also marginally associated with insomnia persistence.

Hayashi T et al. “Organisational justice and insomnia: a prospective cohort study examining insomnia onset and persistence”. International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health, published online 3 November 2016.

Employee resilience and job insecurity

Employee resilience can help mitigate the negative consequences of job insecurity on emotional exhaustion and “interpersonal, counterproductive work behaviours”, a cross-sectional study undertaken as part of this research project suggests. In particular, resilience weakens the relationships between job insecurity and cynicism and “psychological contract breach”, the authors suggest.

Shoss MK et al. “Bending without breaking: a two-study examination of employee resilience in the face of job insecurity”. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, published online 27 October 2016.

Work stress and alcohol use

This study tested a model of work stress and alcohol use based on the stimulant and sedative effects of alcohol. Results from a sample of 2,808 US workers indicate that work stress was related to heavy alcohol use among both men and women who held strong expectations that alcohol consumption would reduce their tension and fatigue.

Frone MR. “Work stress and alcohol use: developing and testing a biphasic self-medication model”. Work & Stress, published online 3 November 2016.

Wellbeing and relationships at work

High-quality, reciprocal relationships between leaders and team members are positively associated with employee wellbeing. However, the pathways for the impact of leader-member relationships on wellbeing are less well explored. This German study finds that job-related factors such as role clarity, meaningful work and predictability at work predicted higher-quality relationships between managers and staff, which in turn related to lower levels of emotional exhaustion. According to the authors, the results “support the important role of job resources in stimulating health-relevant aspects of leadership behaviour, and indicate ways in which leaders can promote health and wellbeing.”

Gregersen S et al. “Job-related resources, leader-member exchange and wellbeing – a longitudinal study”. Work & Stress, published online 28 October 2016.

Employee stress in emergency healthcare

Staff in hospital emergency departments report high levels of effort-reward imbalance and organisational injustice, contributing to work-related stress, this questionnaire-based study finds. The questionnaire assessed participants’ demographic characteristics, together with perceptions of stress from three sources: demand/control/support, effort-reward and organisational justice. These work-related stressors in emergency department staff were compared with those in a control group from the same hospital’s ear, nose and throat and neurology departments. Almost 60% of eligible staff in the emergency department responded, indicating lower levels of job autonomy, management support and involvement in planning for organisational change than colleagues in the control groups. However, both groups of employees reported high levels of effort-reward imbalance and organisational injustice, suggesting to the study’s authors that “wider interventions beyond the emergency department are also needed to address these issues”.

Basu S et al. “Examining the sources of occupational stress in an emergency department”. Occupational Medicine, published online 16 November 2016.

Police working hours and mental health

More than a quarter of police officers work long hours and are significantly more likely to report common mental health disorders than colleagues who work shorter hours, according to this study of federated ranks of police officers in two English country police forces. The group that said it worked more than 49 hours in a typical week were twice as likely to report psychological distress and almost twice as likely to report emotional exhaustion. The authors suggest that the management of working hours may effectively promote psychological wellbeing in police forces.

Houdmont J and Randall R. “Working hours and common mental disorders in English police officers”. Occupational Medicine, published online 16 November 2016.

Return to work after cancer

Women who participate in exercise before, during and after treatment for breast cancer are more likely to return to work, this study of 288 women suggests. A woman’s need to care for children, her perceived body image and existential wellbeing may also affect return to work, it concludes.

Lee MK et al. “Three-year prospective cohort study of factors associated with return to work after breast cancer diagnosis”. Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation, published online 17 November 2016.

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