Background: Knowledge on the impact of the psychosocial work environment on the occurrence of stress-related disorders (SRDs) can assist occupational physicians in the assessment of the work-relatedness of these disorders.
Aims: To systematically review the contribution of work-related psychosocial risk factors to SRDs.
Methods: A systematic review of the literature was carried out by searching Medline, PsycINFO and Embase for studies published up until October 2008. Studies eligible for inclusion were prospective cohort studies or patient-control studies of workers at risk for SRDs. Studies were included in the review when data on the association between exposure to psychosocial work factors and the occurrence of SRDs were presented. Where possible, meta-analysis was conducted to obtain summary odds ratios of the association. The strength of the evidence was assessed using four levels of evidence.
Results: From the 2426 studies identified, seven prospective studies were included in this review. Strong evidence was found that high job demands, low job control, low co-worker support, low supervisor support, low procedural justice, low relational justice and a high effort-reward imbalance predicted the incidence of SRDs.
Conclusions: This systematic review points to the potential of preventing SRDs by improving the psychosocial work environment. However, more prospective studies are needed on the remaining factors, exposure assessment and the relative contributions of single factors, in order to enable consistent assessment of the work-relatedness of SRDs by occupational physicians.