Determination of oxidative and occupational stress in palliative care workers

Clin Chem Lab Med. 2011 Mar;49(3):471-7. doi: 10.1515/CCLM.2011.061. Epub 2010 Dec 14.


Background: In previous work, we demonstrated that some occupational workers in stressful conditions can have increases in several markers of oxidative stress when compared to other workers. We investigated two antioxidant enzymes, superoxide dismutase (SOD) and catalase (CAT) activities, and malondialdehyde (MDA) concentrations, according to demographics, lifestyle and occupational parameters in palliative care unit workers, and analyzed the relationship with occupational burnout.

Methods: Fifty-two palliative care unit workers and 50 gender- and aged matched healthy individuals as controls were surveyed. Spectrophotometric and high-pressure liquid chromatography methods were used for biochemical determinations.

Results: No significant variation with respect to gender were detected with respect to SOD and CAT activities, MDA concentrations or occupational burnout. MDA concentrations increased with age in controls and palliative care unit workers, and we observed significant differences in MDA between controls and palliative care unit workers for all age groups. Significant variation in MDA concentrations were detected between unmarried (287.22±8.31 nmol/mg hemoglobin) and married individuals (317.18±6.24 nmol/mg hemoglobin), but not with respect to divorced individuals (288.41±5.64 nmol/mg hemoglobin). Significant differences were detected between smokers and non-smokers for SOD, CAT and MDA, but not for alcohol, coffee, tea or cola consumption. Significant differences were seen in MDA concentrations between those who frequently practice some kind of sport (280.59±7.62 nmol/mg hemoglobin) and those who never practice any kind of sport (299.12±8.09 nmol/mg hemoglobin), and between those who frequently ate fruit and greens (291.05±8.11 nmol/mg hemoglobin) and those who never eat fruit and greens (316.31±7.42 nmol/mg hemoglobin). SOD activity and MDA concentrations are higher in palliative care workers who work the evening and night shifts (p<0.01), and these workers also show significantly higher levels of stress.

Conclusions: Our findings suggest that oxidative stress, occupational stress and occupational burnout levels are similar in men and women. Occupational stress increases oxidative stress levels probably as a response to increased generation of reactive oxygen species. Working during the evening and night shifts increases oxidative levels and burnout levels.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Catalase / metabolism
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Malondialdehyde / analysis
  • Middle Aged
  • Occupational Health*
  • Oxidative Stress*
  • Palliative Care / psychology*
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism
  • Stress, Psychological*
  • Superoxide Dismutase / metabolism
  • Young Adult


  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Malondialdehyde
  • Catalase
  • Superoxide Dismutase