Psychosocial Work Environment Stressors, Health, and Health Disparities: Findings from the 2002 to 2014 General Social Surveys



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In the U.S. poorly understood changing patterns of work limit our ability to determine if the prevalence of factors threatening worker safety and health are changing as well as shifting in their distribution across occupations and worker demographics such as sex and race/ethnicity. The National Institute for Occupational Health & Safety (NIOSH) recognizes the burden job stress imposes across several aspects of well-being, increased healthcare usage, and lost productivity. Concomitantly, the U.S. is relatively unusual among industrialized countries in that it reports the health status of its population based on race/ethnicity while most other countries focus on social class differences. One of the overarching goals of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Healthy People initiatives has been addressing health disparities; for 2020, it aimed to achieve health equity, eliminate disparities, and improve the health of all groups. Health disparities have been shown to result from of a variety of causes, including those attributable to a society’s values and attitudes, its legal and political systems, and social institutions. Unfortunately, few U.S. researchers utilize information on works role in the existence or perpetuation of health disparities. This is somewhat due to the data challenges faced by researchers, at least relative to the data collected by many European nations. The General Social Survey (GSS) NIOSH Quality of Worklife (QWL) data enables us to investigate and contribute new information to both NIOSH and DHHS research priorities. Using the 2002, 2006, 2010, and 2014 GSS QWL data, pursuing this dissertation’s aims produced the following findings (a) psychosocial work stressor exposures were consistent in the years studied and associated with respondents’ occupation, (b) respondents’ sex was not associated with work stressor exposures while non-Hispanic blacks reported higher levels than non-Hispanic whites, (c) increasing work stressor exposure is associated with poorer mental and physical and self-rated health, and (d) work stressor exposure was not a factor in mediating sex or race/ethnicity health disparities. These results contribute evidence pertaining to priority research areas of multiple U.S. government agencies and suggest the need for continued examination of the impact of psychosocial work environment factors on health.



Health Sciences, Public Health, Health Sciences, Occupational Health and Safety, Sociology, Public and Social Welfare