The adverse effects of psychosocial constraints at work: a participatory study to orient prevention to mitigate psychological distress

Work. 2009;34(3):345-57. doi: 10.3233/WOR-2009-0933.


Studies conducted with the JDC (job demand-control) or ERI (effort-reward imbalance) models highlight the links between constraints in the psychosocial work environment and psychological distress. However, the underlying mechanisms are not very well understood. The present participatory qualitative study explored these mechanisms with a view to identifying both the processes at work in these relationships and some targets for problem prevention. This investigation was conducted with white-collar workers from a public service organisation within one Canadian province (Quebec) who participated in six discussion groups during an intervention designed to reduce psychosocial environment constraints. The data gathered in these groups was subjected to content analysis through thematic categorization. The findings indicate that psychosocial constraints take root in situations that adversely affect subjective dimensions relating to personal and professional experience. An interpretive model is proposed on the basis of these findings, which helps to elucidate the dynamic relationships that exist among the various aspects of work experience that can lead to psychological distress. From this model, some targets for problem prevention have emerged.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Focus Groups
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Health
  • Risk Factors
  • Stress, Psychological / etiology
  • Stress, Psychological / prevention & control*
  • Workplace / psychology*