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Allostatic load and work conditions


  • Schnorpfeil, Pia
  • Noll, Alexander
  • Schulze, Renate
  • Ehlert, Ulrike
  • Frey, Karl
  • Fischer, Joachim E.


Adverse work characteristics and poor social support have been associated with an increased risk for cardiovascular disease and other adverse health outcomes in otherwise apparently healthy adults. We undertook a cross-sectional study to evaluate the relationship between objective health status and work characteristics in industrial workers in Germany. Volunteers (n=324) were recruited from a representative random sample (n=537) of employees of an airplane manufacturing plant. Psychosocial work characteristics were assessed by the 52-item, 13-subscale salutogenetic subjective work analysis (SALSA) questionnaire, which assesses potentially salutogenic and pathogenic conditions. Factor analysis revealed three factors: decision latitude, job demands and social support. Biological health status was determined by the revised allostatic load score with 14 components: body-mass index, waist-to-hip ratio; systolic and diastolic blood pressure; plasma levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), tumor-necrosis factor-[alpha], HDL, cholesterol, dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate; glycosylated hemoglobin; urinary cortisol, epinephrine, norepinephrine, and albumin. Score points were given for values in the high-risk quartile (maximum=14). General linear models revealed that older individuals and men had significantly higher allostatic load scores than younger participants or women. Of the SALSA factors, only job demands related significantly to allostatic load. The effect of demands was stronger in older individuals. Post-hoc analysis showed possible positive associations between high job demands and blood pressure or CRP, and between low social support and nocturnal excretion of cortisol or plasma levels of CRP. We conclude that this cross-sectional study on industrial employees found a weak association between a health summary score based on objective medical data and self-reported adverse work characteristics.

Suggested Citation

  • Schnorpfeil, Pia & Noll, Alexander & Schulze, Renate & Ehlert, Ulrike & Frey, Karl & Fischer, Joachim E., 2003. "Allostatic load and work conditions," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 57(4), pages 647-656, August.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:57:y:2003:i:4:p:647-656

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    Cited by:

    1. Michaud, Pierre-Carl & Crimmins, Eileen M. & Hurd, Michael D., 2016. "The effect of job loss on health: Evidence from biomarkers," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 41(C), pages 194-203.
    2. Robert Kaestner & Jay A. Pearson & Danya Keene & Arline T. Geronimus, 2009. "Stress, Allostatic Load, and Health of Mexican Immigrants," Social Science Quarterly, Southwestern Social Science Association, vol. 90(5), pages 1089-1111, December.
    3. repec:eee:socmed:v:196:y:2018:i:c:p:218-226 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Lipowicz, Anna & Szklarska, Alicja & Mitas, Andrzej W., 2016. "Biological costs of economic transition: Stress levels during the transition from communism to capitalism in Poland," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 21(C), pages 90-99.


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