Objectives: The purpose of this study was to examine the extent to which the type or nature (physical, mental or mixed mental and physical) of work and work characteristics is related to the course of neuroendocrine reactivity and recovery from work.
Methods: Neuroendocrine reactivity and recovery were studied by measuring the urinary excretion of adrenaline, noradrenaline, and cortisol during and after 3 workdays, 1 consecutive day off, and a baseline day. The assessment was made in 3 groups of Dutch male workers (N=60) who differed in the nature (mental, physical, and combined mental and physical demands) of their work. Multilevel analyses were performed to fit linear mixed-effects models for each hormone.
Results: Main or interaction effects with time of day were found between the workers in combined mental and physical work and the 2 other groups of workers for cortisol, adrenaline, and noradrenaline excretion. In addition, the baseline levels of the 3 hormones were higher in the workers with combined mental and physical work when compared with the other 2 groups. The excretion rates during the workdays were higher than those on the day off, but a trend towards mobilizing less activity was found from the 1st to the 3rd workday. Job demands were negatively related to cortisol excretion. Job control and social demands at work did not affect the excretion rates of the hormones.
Conclusions: Unfavorable effects on cortisol and adrenaline reactivity or recovery was found for workers with combined mental and physical demands when compared with workers doing mainly mental or mainly physical work. The results of the present study are in accordance with the cognitive activation theory and the allostatic load model.