Occupational role stress is associated with higher cortisol reactivity to acute stress

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2013
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Wirtz, Petra H.
Ehlert, Ulrike
Kottwitz, Maria U.
La Marca, Roberto
Semmer, Norbert K.
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We investigated whether occupational role stress is associated with differential levels of the stress hormone cortisol in response to acute psychosocial stress. Forty-three medication-free nonsmoking men aged between 22 and 65 years (mean ± SEM: 44.5 ± 2) underwent an acute standardized psychosocial stress task combining public speaking and mental arithmetic in front of an audience. We assessed occupational role stress in terms of role conflict and role ambiguity (combined into a measure of role uncertainty) as well as further work characteristics and psychological control variables including time pressure, overcommitment, perfectionism, and stress appraisal. Moreover, we repeatedly measured salivary cortisol and blood pressure levels before and after stress exposure, and several times up to 60 min thereafter. Higher role uncertainty was associated with a more pronounced cortisol stress reactivity (p = .016), even when controlling for the full set of potential confounders (p < .001). Blood pressure stress reactivity was not associated with role uncertainty. Our findings suggest that occupational role stress in terms of role uncertainty acts as a background stressor that is associated with increased HPA-axis reactivity to acute stress. This finding may represent a potential mechanism regarding how occupational role stress may precipitate adverse health outcomes.

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ISO 690WIRTZ, Petra H., Ulrike EHLERT, Maria U. KOTTWITZ, Roberto LA MARCA, Norbert K. SEMMER, 2013. Occupational role stress is associated with higher cortisol reactivity to acute stress. In: Journal of Occupational Health Psychology. 2013, 18(2), pp. 121-131. eISSN 1939-1307. Available under: doi: 10.1037/a0031802
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@article{Wirtz2013Occup-30589,
  year={2013},
  doi={10.1037/a0031802},
  title={Occupational role stress is associated with higher cortisol reactivity to acute stress},
  number={2},
  volume={18},
  journal={Journal of Occupational Health Psychology},
  pages={121--131},
  author={Wirtz, Petra H. and Ehlert, Ulrike and Kottwitz, Maria U. and La Marca, Roberto and Semmer, Norbert K.}
}
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