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Year : 2008  |  Volume : 17  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 28-32 Table of Contents   

Occupational health and psychological well-being of industrial employees

1 Research Scholar, Department of Psychology, Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi - 221005, India
2 Professor, Department of Psychology, Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi-221005, India

Date of Web Publication13-May-2010

Correspondence Address:
A Bhardwaj
Research Scholar, Department of Psychology, Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi - 221005
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

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Background : In the present era of globalization of business the nature of work organizations and its environment are changing radically extending noticeable impact on individual's job, safety, health, and well-being. Material & Methods : The present study was designed to examine the effects of overall occupational health on psychological well-being in a sample of 150 line-staff operating in a production organization. Psychometrically standardized scales were employed to assess the extent of occupational health and psychological well-being. Results : The analyses of the obtained data revealed that occupational health positively correlates with employees' mental health. Conclusion : The employees who perceived their work and its physical and psycho-social environment as to be adequate and healthy maintained relatively better overall mental health.

Keywords: Occupational Health, Psychological Well-Being

How to cite this article:
Bhardwaj A, Srivastava A. Occupational health and psychological well-being of industrial employees. Ind Psychiatry J 2008;17:28-32

How to cite this URL:
Bhardwaj A, Srivastava A. Occupational health and psychological well-being of industrial employees. Ind Psychiatry J [serial online] 2008 [cited 2023 Feb 4];17:28-32. Available from: https://www.industrialpsychiatry.org/text.asp?2008/17/1/28/63061

New technology, globalization, increased competition, privatization etc. have had a tremendous impact on the way work is done. These rapid changing work design, conditions of work and the work environment increase the demands for learning new skills, need to adapt to new types of work, pressure of higher productivity and quality of work, time pressure and hectic job with growing psychological workload and stress among the workforce. Such developments create new challenges for employees, which may have both positive and negative effect on their physical and psychological well-being. The over emphasis on production and negligence of the health and safety of the workers' create various types of hazards in organizations resulting in a variety of job behavioural problems and occupational diseases.

In USA, the National Environment Health Committee recognized that psychological stress and the associated negative health effects had crucial implication for productivity. Then, National Institute of Safety and Health (NIOSH) collaborated with the US Department of Labour to carry out national surveys (1969, 73, 77) looking at the work organization's link to health and safety and well-being of the workers (Quinn & Stains, 1978).

The nature of work organizations and its environment have changed drastically which have an impact on individual jobs, safety, health and well-being. Thus, results in need for promotion of occupational health and preservation of employees' well-being. In the period 1990-99, National Institute of Safety and Health (NIOSH) and the American Psychological Association (APA) launched programme to support development of the field of Occupational Health Psychology.

According to US National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), "Occupational Health Psychology concerns with the application of psychology to improving the quality of work life and to protecting and promoting the safety, health and well-being of workers." Thus OHP includes following characteristics:-

  • it considers health as a positive state of complete physical, mental and social well-being.
  • it concerns with employees in large organizations as well as unemployment and home-work interference.
  • it deals with the individual employee, the job environment, the organizational environment and the external environment.
  • it tries to understand the underlying psychological process and seeks to improve occupational health, safety and well-being.
In short, Occupational Health Psychology deals with the effect of work on health and to ensure that workers are fit for the work that they do or are given to do.

Maintenance of employees' mental health is an important component of occupational health. The National Institute of Safety and Health (NIOSH) recognize psychological disorders as one of the 10 leading work-related diseases and injuries (Miller, 1984). Mental health is more than the mere absence of mental disorders. The concept of mental health includes subjective well-being, perceived self-efficacy, autonomy, competence and recognition of the ability to realize one's intellectual and emotional potential. Mental health problems have an impact on employers and businesses directly through increased absenteeism, reduced production and increased costs. In many developed countries, 35%-45% of absenteeism from work is due to mental health problem (WHO, 2003). In United Kingdom, mental health problems are the second most important reason for absence from work which adversely affects national economy Occupational health influences the health status of the employees. The most widespread negative effect of work on mental health is stress, and studies indicate that occupational stress has become one of the most frequent causes of health problems for people at work. Some work factors that have adverse psychological effects include time pressure, hectic work, and heavy responsibility for human or economic concerns, monotonous work, shift work and work under the threat which lead to psychological stress and overload associated with sleep disturbances, burn-out syndromes and depression. According to survey conducted by International Labour Organization (ILO) stress and accompanying depression in the workplace is now the second most disabling illness inflicting workers after heart disease (Varhol, 2000). Lack of participation in decision making process, lack of effective communication, restriction on behaviour, and rigid rules and regulations are potential sources of stress. Non participation of workers in decision making results in emotional distress, lowered self-esteem, and job dissatisfaction (Margolis, Kroes & Quinn, 1974; Spector, 1986).

Several studies have shown stress caused from role ambiguity relates mental ill-health, including depressed mood, dissatisfaction with life, tension, anxiety and resentment (Caplan & Jones, 1975; Van Sell, Brief & Schular, 1981) and to adverse psychophysiological states such as increased heart rate and blood pressure (French & Caplan, 1970). According to WHO (2004), inadequate, inconsiderate or unsupportive supervision, poor relationship with coworkers, bullying, harassment and isolation increase the risk of a mental health problem. Job related stress is also recognized as a key factor in understanding employees' dissatisfaction, lower productivity, absenteeism and turnover (Cummins, 1990; Spielberger & Reheliser, 1995). Stress arising from work and its environment have been noted to be correlated with a variety of health problems, such as, blood pressure, (Caplan & Jones, 1975), high serum cholesterol (Chodwick, 1980), heart diseases (Jamal, 1990; House et al., 1979), cerebral stroke, diabetes militus (Cobb & Rose, 1973), respiratory illness, peptic ulcer (House et al., 1979), somatic complaints (Frese, 1985; French, Rodgers & cobb, 1974), and mortality rates (Colligan, Smith & Hurrell, 1977). According to the NIOSH, occupational stress can cause emotional, physiological, and behavioral problems such as, mood and sleep disturbances as well as strained relationships with family and friends. The focal employees may also suffer from chronic health issues such as, cardiovascular diseases, musculoskeletal disorders, and psychological pathologies.

During last three decades the industrial and organizational psychologists extensively studied the effect of type work and its environment on employees' job behaviour and health with focus on negative/inadequate/unhealthy aspects of work and its environment. In most of the studies stress/distress aroused from these negative aspects was noted to adversely affect employees' job behaviour and physical and psychological well-being. Now in present era of positive psychology the present study purported to examine the effect of occupational health (i.e. job having positive and healthy features) on employees' psychological well-being in a sample of industrial workers. The study would enable us also to test the proposition that inadequate, hazardous and unhealthy work design and its environment deteriorate employees' job behaviour and health and healthy occupations improves employees' job behaviour and health as well.

   Method Top


For the present study 150 line-staff operating in different departments of a production organization were randomly selected. All the participants were male in the age range 24 to 58 years. The length of service of the participants ranged from 2 to 34 years.

   Tools of Measurement Top

Occupational Health Scale (OHS) was developed by the author to assess the extent of occupational health. The 63 items in the OHS to be rated on 5-point scale, relate to three major dimensions of occupational health, namely, physical, psychological and social. The items in the scale cover four areas contributing to the state of comprehensive occupational health, i.e. job characteristics, working conditions (physical), psycho-social work environment, organizational structure and management policies. Split-half reliability of the scale was found to be .92.

General Health Questionnaire
was developed by Goldberg and Hillier (1979) used to measure the psychological aspect of quality of life. The GHQ-28 incorporates four sub-scales: somatic symptoms, anxiety and insomnia, social dysfunction, and severe depression. In this scale, the likert scoring procedure is applied and the total scale score range from 28 to 112. The correlation coefficients between the subscales and the GHQ-28 total scale, ranging from 0.75 (severe depression) to 0.89 (anxiety and insomnia), indicate the unidimensionality of the scale.

   Procedure Top

The two scales along with personal data sheet were administered to the participants personally. Help, if required, was rendered to fill the questionnaire. After the collection of data, the responses were scored individually for each subject and then appropriate statistical measures were used for analysis.

   Result and Discussion Top

The obtained data were analyzed in terms of Mean, SD and t-ratio in order to examine the effect of perceived occupational health on employees' psychological well-being.

In order to examine the effect of perceived occupational health on employees' mental health, the participant were divided into high and low occupational health groups on the basis of median of the score of whole sample on the Occupational Health Scale. The participants who perceived their work and work environment as favorable, healthy and safer and scored more than the Median constituted the high occupational health group whereas those who perceived their workplace less healthy and safer and scored below median were included in low occupational health group.

The [Table 1] depicts the Mean and SD of the scores on different dimensions of mental ill-health of the low (below Mdn) and high (above Mdn) occupational health groups. The t-values indicates that the participants categorized as high and low on perceived occupational health scored differently on the measure of mental ill-health (overall) and its dimensions of somatic symptoms, anxiety and insomnia, and social dysfunctions. The results suggest that employees belonging to the category of high occupational health group scored significantly lower on these measures of mental ill-health. However, no significant difference could be noted in the symptoms of 'severe depression' in two groups of the participant. The results enable us to conclude that occupational health exerts positive effect on employees' mental health. The employees who perceived their work and its physical and psycho-social environment as to be adequate and healthy maintained relatively better overall mental health.

The researches have revealed that the workers' failure to adapt to psychosocial work environment results in deterioration in mental health. Lack of job satisfaction, insecurity, poor human relationship and emotional tension are some of the psychosocial factors, which adversely affect both physical and mental health of the workers. Kornhauser (1965) long back reported that poor mental health was directly related to unpleasant working condition, necessity to work fast, expend a lot of physical effort, and inconvenient work hours. According to a survey, approximately 30 to 50% of workers report their work as hazardous due to physical, chemical, biological exposures, overload of unreasonably heavy physical work or ergonomic factors that affect their health and working capacity as well as psychological health. These factors result in stress symptoms, sleep disturbance, depression, cardiovascular diseases, heart diseases, somatic complaints etc. Shehadeh and Shain (1990) found that these job related stresses are significantly related to heavy alcohol consumption and thus, lead to increased risk of poor health. Psychological problems arising from poor ergonomic conditions are increasingly apparent in industries (Grandjean, 1983). The NIOSH (1974, 1977) revealed that workers face exposure to metals and organic compounds (mercury, leads etc) cause psychological disorders. Researches has shown that role ambiguity, role conflict, job insecurity, under and over promotion are positively associated with the indicators of mental ill-health including depressed mood, dissatisfaction with life, tension, anxiety and resentment (Caplan & Jone, 1975; Van Sell, Brief, & Schuler, 1981) and to adverse psychophysiological states (French & Caplan, 1970). A recent research on the changes in work time schedules shows that prolonged work hours and work shifts have detrimental effects on employees' well-being (Sparks, Cooper, Fried, and Shirom, 1997).

The results depicted in [Table 2] show that there exists significant relationship between occupational health and mental health of the employees. The negative relationship between the two indicates that employees who work under safer and healthier workplace with improved physical and psychosocial work environment are relatively more satisfied and psychologically healthy than those who work under pressure and stress prevailing conditions. The results further suggest that high perceived occupational health significantly negatively correlate with mental ill-health, but low occupational health does not significantly associated with the symptoms of mental ill-health. The results indicate that high occupational health markedly resists to mental health problems, but low occupational health does not noticeably causes mental ill-health. Health of industrial worker is highly influenced by the condition prevailing in the workplace. Employees who are unable to influence or adjust their work are likely to experience stress (European Commission, Employment and Social Affairs, 1999). French and Caplan (1973) found that low or little participation in decision making process leads to low job satisfaction and productivity, turnover and high level of physical and mental health risks and vice-versa. Insufficient participation in decisions related to work can also lead to depression, poor physical and mental health, alcohol abuse, and low self-esteem (Karasek & Theorell, 1990). Perceived job insecurity is bad for employees' well-being (Vahtera, Kivimaki & Pentti, 1997). Another study revealed that high level of work control is directly related to a positive health and work related outcomes (Mullarkey, Wall & Jackson, 1997). Domenighetti, D'Avanzo, and Bisig (2000) found that psychosocial stress induced by perceived job insecurity had negative effects on indicators of health and health related behaviours. Social support from colleagues, joint problem-solving and assistance from supervisors play an important role in both the perception of stressors and the impact of stress on mental health outcomes (Kortum & Ertel, 2003).

Thus, the aims of healthier, more satisfied and more productive employees and more efficient, adaptive and profitable organization can be achieved by making occupations and its environment safe and healthy. Moreover, people and environment are changing fast, hence increased attention has to be given to improve health of the organization and as well as of the employees.[34]

   References Top

1.Caplan, R.D., & Jones, K.W. (1975). Effects of workload, role ambiguity, and type A Personality on anxiety, depression, and heart rate. Journal of Applied Psychology, 60, 713-719.   Back to cited text no. 1      
2. Chodwick, J. (1980). Social Psychology of absenteeism. New York: Praeger.   Back to cited text no. 2      
3. Cobb, S., & Rose, R. M. (1973). Hypertension, peptic ulcer and diabetes in air traffic controllers. Journal of American Medical association, 224, 489-492.   Back to cited text no. 3      
4. Colligan, M.J., Smith, M.J., & Hurrell, J.J. (1977). Occupational incidence rate of mental health disorders. Journal of Human Stress, 34-39.   Back to cited text no. 4      
5. Cummins, R. (1990). Job stress and the buffering effect of supervisory support. Group and Organizational Studies, 15, 92-104.   Back to cited text no. 5      
6. Domenigheeti, G., D'Avanzo, B., & Bisig, B. (2000). Health effects of job insecurity among employees in the Swiss general population. International Journal of Health Services, 30, 477-490.   Back to cited text no. 6      
7. European Commission, Employment and Social Affairs (1999). Guidance on work related stress: spice of life or kiss of death? Luxembourg.  Back to cited text no. 7      
8. Frease, M. (1985). Stress at work and psychosomatic complaints: A causal interpretation. Journal of Applied Psychology, 70, 314-320.  Back to cited text no. 8      
9. French, J.R.P., & Caplan, R.D. (1970). Psychosocial factors in coronary heart disease. Industial Medicine, 39, 383-397.  Back to cited text no. 9      
10. French, J.R.P., & Caplan, R.D. (1973). Organizational stress and individual strain. In A. J. Marrow, The Failure of Success. New York: AMACOM, pp. 30-66.  Back to cited text no. 10      
11. French, J.R.P.Jr., Rodgers, W., & Cobb, S. (1974). Adjustment as person-environment fit. In Coelho, G.V., Hamburg, D.A., & Adams, J. E., Coping and Adaptation, New York: Basic Books.   Back to cited text no. 11      
12. Goldberg, D. P., & Hillier, V. F. (1979). A scaled version of the General Health Questionnaire. Psychological Medicine, 9, 139-145.  Back to cited text no. 12      
13. Grandjean, E. (1983). Ergonomics and health in offices. Philadelphia, PA: Taylor & Francis.  Back to cited text no. 13      
14. House, J.S., Micheal, A.J., Wells, J.A., Kaplan, B.H., & Landerman, L.R. (1979). Occupational Stress and health among factory workers. Journal of Health and Social Behaviuor, 20, 139-160.  Back to cited text no. 14      
15. Jamal, M. (1990). Relationship of job stress and type A behaviour to employees' job satisfaction, organizational commitment, psycho-somatic health problems and turnover motivation. Human Relations, 43, 727-738.  Back to cited text no. 15      
16. Karasek, R., & Theorell, T. (1990). Healthy work: Stress, productivity and the reconstruction of working life. New York, Basic Books: 381.   Back to cited text no. 16      
17. Kortum, E., & Ertel, M. (2003). Occupational stress and well-being at work: An overview of our current understanding and future direction. African Newsletter on Occupational Health and Safety, 13, 35-38.   Back to cited text no. 17      
18. Kronhauser, A. (1965). Mental health of the industrial worker. New York: Wiley.  Back to cited text no. 18      
19. Margolis, B.L., Kroes, W.H., & Quinn, R. A. (1974). Job stress: An unlisted occupational hazard. Journal of Occupational Medicine, 16, 654-661.  Back to cited text no. 19      
20. Miller, J. D. (1984). The NIOSH-suggested list of the ten leading work-related diseases and injuries. Journal of Occupational Medicine, 26, 340-341.   Back to cited text no. 20      
21. Mullarkey, S., Jackson, P.R., Wall, T.D., Wilson, J.R., & Grey-Taylor, S.M. (1997). The impact of technology characteristics and job control on worker mental health. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 18, 471-489.  Back to cited text no. 21      
22. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) (1974). National Occupational Hazard Survey: Vol. I. Survey manual (DHEW publication no. 74-127). Rockville, MD: U.S. Government Printing Office.  Back to cited text no. 22      
23. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) (1977). National Occupational Hazard Survey: Vol. II. Data editing and data base development (DHEW publication no. 77-213). Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.  Back to cited text no. 23      
24. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) (2000). The changing organization of work and the safety and health of working people: Knowledge gaps and research directions (DHHS Publication No. 2002-116). Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office.  Back to cited text no. 24      
25. Quinn, R.P., & Staines, G.L. (1978). The 1977 quality of employment survey. Ann Arbor, MI: Institute for Social Research.   Back to cited text no. 25      
26. Shehadeh,V., & Shain, M. (1990). Influences on wellness in the workplace: a multi-variate approach. Ottawa, ON: Minister of Supply and Services Canada (Cat. H39-188/1990 E).   Back to cited text no. 26      
27. Spark, K., Cooper, C., Fried, Y., & Shirom, A. (1997). The effects of hours of work on health: A meta-analytic review. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 70, 391-408.  Back to cited text no. 27      
28. Spector, P.E. (1986). Perceived control by employees: A meta-analysis of studies concerning autonomy and participation at work. Human Relations, 39, 1005-1016.  Back to cited text no. 28      
29. Spielberger, C.D., & Reheliser, E. C. (1995). Measuring occupational stress: The job stress survey. In R. Crandall and P.L. Perrewes (Eds), Occupational stress: A handbook (pp: 51-69). Washington, D.C.: Taylor & Francis.   Back to cited text no. 29      
30. Vahtera, J., Kivimaki, M., & Pentti, J. (1997). Effect of organizational downsizing on health of employees. Lancet, 350, 1124-1128.  Back to cited text no. 30      
31. Van Sell, V., Brief, A. P., & Schuler, R. S. (1981). Role conflict and ambiguity: Integration of literature and directions for future research. Human Relations, 34, 43-71.   Back to cited text no. 31      
32. Varhol, P. (2000). Identify and manage work related stress: Industry trend or event. Electronic design.  Back to cited text no. 32      
33. World Health Organization (2003). Investing in mental health. Geneva.   Back to cited text no. 33      
34. World Health Organization (2004). Promoting mental health: concept, emerging evidence, practice. Geneva.  Back to cited text no. 34      


  [Table 1], [Table 2]


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