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NIOSH and APA Sponsored Conference will Examine New Research on Work Related Stress, March 10-13 in Baltimore, Maryland

NIOSH Update:

Contact: Fred Blosser (202) 260-8519
February 23, 1999

Studies suggest that work stress may increase a person’s risk for cardiovascular disease, psychological disorders, workplace injury, and other health problems. Stressful working conditions are also associated with increased absenteeism, tardiness, disability claims, and other factors that reduce a company’s productivity and competitiveness.

More than 500 researchers, health professionals, business officials, and labor leaders will meet in a national conference on March 10-13, 1999, in Baltimore, Maryland. The presenters will review the latest scientific findings and assess ongoing research needs on worker stress associated with dramatic changes in the nature and organization of work on the brink of the 21st Century. The conference, “Work, Stress, and Health ’99: Organization of Work in a Global Economy,” is sponsored by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Areas to be addressed include stress factors and consequences associated with downsizing and shiftwork, occupational burnout, job strain and cardiovascular disease, stress and underemployment, injury risks associated with stress, work and family concerns, and stress prevention.

“The U.S. workplace has changed dramatically in the past decade and promises to continue to do so,” noted NIOSH Director Linda Rosenstock, M.D., M.P.H. “With this transformation have come unprecedented demands on businesses and workers and the emergence of work stress as a significant occupational and public health concern. NIOSH is pleased to join with APA and many other participating organizations to share the latest data from a host of scientific disciplines and help chart further national research and prevention efforts.”

“The global economy is putting more pressure on businesses, which, in turn, put increased pressure on their employees. We need to develop strategies and processes that will value and protect worker health and well-being, help women and men be effective at their jobs, and enhance organizational productivity,” said psychologist Gwendolyn Keita, Ph.D., associate executive director of the Public Interest Directorate at the APA and co-chair of the work-stress conference.

The conference will feature presentations by leading researchers who represent organizations and agencies in the United States and abroad, including NIOSH. APA and NIOSH are presenting the event in collaboration with 35 other organizations and agencies from labor, industry, government and the professional community.

Among the presentations are reports of new findings on the following.

Thursday, March 11, 1999

  • The Effect of Job Strain on Ambulatory Blood Pressure: Job strain has been found to produce “consistent and substantial risk” for high blood pressure in men. One study found that job strain has a greater effect on blood pressure in older men, in men who start with higher blood pressure, and in men who have lower social support or socioeconomic status.
  • Businesses Respond to Biopsychosocial Needs of Employees: More and more businesses are providing family-friendly programs that respond to the needs of workers and their families in today’s demanding work environment. The conference provides overviews of such programs by several major corporations.

Friday, March 12, 1999

  • Integrating Work Life and Family Life: Symposia and papers examine mothers’ mental and physical risks of going back to work too soon after having a child. New research shows that dual-earner couples comprise almost 66 percent of the workforce, and women earn as much as or more than their husbands in about 26 percent of these couples. Depending on how spouses view their roles in the marriage (traditional, egalitarian, reversed), a salary gap favoring the wife or the husband will either increase or decrease the respective spouse’s marital satisfaction.
  • Sexual Harassment: Name calling and teasing has been found to be as stressful as other forms of sexual harassment on the job, research shows.
  • Musculoskeletal Disorders and Work: New studies show that mental work load, work pressure, and lack of job control contribute to chronic low-level muscle tension and can lead to more serious musculoskeletal disorders, especially in computer work where time pressure, effectiveness, and competitiveness are demanded.
  • Overwork: Causes and Consequences: Do Americans work too much? According to the Louis Harris poll, the work week has increased by 15 percent since 1973, and leisure time has decreased by 37 percent. A study by the Families and Work Institute found that 13 percent of Americans hold second jobs, and 70 percent of parents say they do not have enough time with their children. Other research finds that the effects of long hours at the workplace and the stresses of home are related to the phenomena of road rage. Road rage seems to occur when the demands of home and work outweigh the rewards.
  • Job Stress Interventions: Presentations include how employers can handle the amounts of information and rapid changes in technology in the workplace. Another study examined how Critical Incident Stress Debriefing, a psychological debriefing intervention, has proven to be an effective crisis intervention technique to alleviate symptoms of stress and trauma. In a study that examines the prevalence of bullying in the workplace, experts outline ways to cope with the problem.

Saturday, March 13, 1999

  • Job Demand and Health: Cynicism, headaches, overeating, low work performance, cardiovascular disease, and poor decision making are just a few examples of the psychological and physical problems that can result from job stress. In various presentations, researchers will describe methods to analyze workplace stress so that strategies can be developed to establish healthier work environments and effective coping strategies.
  • Occupational Burnout: The ultimate result of stress is burnout, which can consist of emotional and physical exhaustion, emotional withdrawal, depersonalization, and aggressive tendencies. Several presentations will focus on uncovering the sources and process of burnout.
  • Impact of Job Stress on Family Well-Being: Work demands and family roles often interfere with one another. How do people juggle and prioritize the two? Are the competing demands of work and home linked to psychological health? These and related issues will be addressed in several presentations.
  • Overload, Fatigue and Work Schedules: Unrealistic expectations and the constant demand for high performance, coupled with a lack of resources, fuel chronic work stress and causes fatigue. Several presentations will examine the relationship between work demands and increased fatigue. Other presentations will evaluate the impact of scheduling on fatigue and the effectiveness of working fewer hours and napping as strategies for reducing fatigue.

The keynote speaker for the conference will be Ray Marshall, Ph.D., research associate with the University of Texas and U.S. Secretary of Labor under President Carter. Dr. Rosenstock and APA Chief Executive Officer Raymond D. Fowler, Ph.D., also will speak.

The American Psychological Association (APA), in Washington, DC, is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States and is the world’s largest association of psychologists. APA’s membership includes more than 155,000 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants, and students. Through its divisions in 50 subfields of psychology and affiliations with 58 state, territorial, and Canadian provincial associations, APA works to advance psychology as a science, as a profession, and as a means of promoting human welfare.

NIOSH, located in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is the nation’s lead agency responsible for research on the prevention of job-related injuries, illnesses, and deaths. NIOSH and partner organizations from industry, labor, the health community, and government are pursuing collaborative research on work stress and other work organization issues under the National Occupational Research Agenda (NORA). Developed with input and review by more than 500 diverse organizations and individuals, NORA provides a blueprint for the national research in 21 priority areas that will do most to protect the safety and health of workers into the 21st Century.

The presentations will be held at the Baltimore Convention Center, One West Pratt Street, Baltimore, near the Inner Harbor. Registration is $295 (for students, $150). Registration fee is waived for press with appropriate credentials. Further information is available on the World Wide Web from NIOSH at and from APA at tel. (202) 336-6033, fax: (202) 336-6117, or e-mail at