Three types of work stress increasing in the US, according to SUNY downstate researchers

May 24, 2017

Brooklyn, NY - Researchers at SUNY Downstate Medical Center's School of Public Health have determined that two stressful work characteristics, low job control and "job strain" -- that is, high-demand, low-control work -- have been increasing in the U.S. since 2002.

The findings were presented at the Seventh International Commission on Occupational Health (ICOH) Conference on Work Environment and Cardiovascular Diseases, in Varese, Italy, by Paul A. Landsbergis, PhD, EdD, MPH, associate professor in the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences, and earlier by lead author and SUNY Downstate Doctor of Public Health candidate Stephanie Myers at SUNY Downstate Research Day in Brooklyn, NY.

Dr. Landsbergis said, "We determined that two stressful work characteristics, low job control, and 'job strain,' or high-demand, low-control work, have been increasing in the U.S. since 2002. Both of these job stressors are risk factors for cardiovascular disease, or CVD."

He continued, "This may help to explain why the years-long declines in the incidence of CVD and mortality from CVD have slowed." Dr. Landsbergis added, "We also found an increase in 'work-family conflict,' which likely reflects increasing burdens faced by working parents in the U.S."

This is the first analysis looking at trends in work characteristics over 12 years using Quality of Work Life (QWL) surveys developed by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The four surveys analyzed (2002, 2006, 2010, and 2014) are based on representative samples of the U.S. employed population.
The full reference for the ICOH presentation is: Myers S, Govindarajulu U, Joseph M, Landsbergis P. Trends in Work Characteristics, 2002-2014: Findings from the U.S. National NIOSH Quality of Work Life surveys (poster). 7th ICOH International Conference on Work Environment and Cardiovascular Diseases, May 4, 2017, Varese, Italy.

The abstract of the findings is published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology 2017, Vol. 24(2S) 4-6; DOI: 10.1177/2047487317698913, on page 51.

SUNY Downstate Medical Center, founded in 1860, was the first medical school in the United States to bring teaching out of the lecture hall and to the patient's bedside. A center of innovation and excellence in research and clinical service delivery, SUNY Downstate Medical Center comprises a College of Medicine, College of Nursing, College of Health Related Professions, a School of Graduate Studies, a School of Public Health, University Hospital of Brooklyn, and a multifaceted biotechnology initiative including the Downstate Biotechnology Incubator and BioBAT for early-stage and more mature companies, respectively.

SUNY Downstate ranks twelfth nationally in the number of alumni who are on the faculty of American medical schools. More physicians practicing in New York City have graduated from SUNY Downstate than from any other medical school. For more information, visit

SUNY Downstate Medical Center

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