Hostility and ill health: role of psychosocial resources in two contexts of working life

J Psychosom Res. 2000 Jan;48(1):89-98. doi: 10.1016/s0022-3999(99)00080-x.


Objective: The purpose of this study was to examine the extent to which increased risk to health problems in hostile employees is associated with psychosocial resources and life context.

Methods: Social relationships, job control, and sickness absence were assessed among 757 hostile and nonhostile municipal employees in two life contexts: during a stressful organizational downsizing; and during a period after the downsizing. The follow-up time was 550 person-years for men and 1677 person-years for women during the period of downsizing, and 519 person-years for men and 1568 person-years for women during the period after downsizing.

Results: The risk of sick leave was 1.2-1.4-fold higher in the hostile individuals than in the others. Small network size in hostile employees related to a 1.4-2.5-fold higher risk of sick leave compared to large network size. In nonhostile employees, network size did not associate with sick leave. Poor job control effected a 50% higher risk of sick leave in hostile than in nonhostile individuals during downsizing. During the less stressful period, both hostility and poorjob control increased absence rates independently of one another. Strong spouse support protected only nonhostile employees from sickness. No differences between hostile and nonhostile employees were found in the levels of psychosocial resources or changes in them.

Conclusion: The risk of health problems in hostile persons could be linked with heightened vulnerability in poor psychosocial resource conditions and with the inability to benefit from existing psychosocial resources. Such personal deficits seem to be resource-specific and vary somewhat according to an individual's life context.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Adult
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Finland
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Hostility*
  • Humans
  • Local Government
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Personnel Downsizing
  • Population Surveillance
  • Sick Leave*
  • Social Adjustment
  • Social Support*
  • Stress, Psychological / physiopathology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires