Objective: Jobs with high levels of demand and low levels of control have been linked to the risk of coronary heart disease (CHD). Limited evidence is available about the contribution of job characteristics to the increased risk of CHD in UK South Asian people. We aimed to describe psychosocial work characteristics in South Asian compared with European people.
Design: Cross-sectional study in Newcastle upon Tyne, UK, using self-reported measures of job demand, decision latitude, skill utilisation and social support at work in an age and sex stratified representative population sample of 652 adults of European (391) and South Asian (261) ethnic origin.
Results: Compared to European people, fewer South Asian men (57% vs 47%) but more South Asian women (22% vs 48%) were employed. South Asian people were more likely than European people to be self-employed (33% vs 7% among men). Employed South Asian people were better educated and had higher income than European people. Compared to European men, more South Asian men had high job control (42% vs 35%) but similar proportions had high job demand (42% vs 41%). Fewer South Asian men had jobs that allowed a high use of skill, but more had high decision latitude. These differences were partly explained by higher rates of self-employment among South Asian people. South Asian people were more likely to be in low demand/high control jobs, while European people occupied a wider range of jobs, in low control and in high demand/high control occupations. More detailed sub-group analyses were not reliable because of small numbers.
Conclusion: In a representative population sample the overall balance of job demand and control was similar in South Asian and European people, though South Asian people tended to be in jobs characterised by low skill and high decision latitude. These findings do not support the suggestion that increased work strain contributes to the increased risk of CHD in UK South Asian people.