Health among hospital employees in Europe: a cross-national study of the impact of work stress and work control

Soc Sci Med. 2011 Mar;72(6):899-906. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2010.12.017. Epub 2011 Feb 1.


This article analyses the effect of working conditions on the health of hospital employees across Europe. Hospital employees often have demanding jobs that increase their stress levels and, consequently, their risk of health problems. Work control - typified by employee autonomy and working time flexibility - helps them cope with high levels of work stress. Researchers have traditionally studied the relationship between working conditions, coping strategies and occupational health from an individual perspective. We argue that the individual work-health relationship is closely connected with the social and institutional context. This study explores how work stress and work control influence the health of hospital employees and aims to understand cross-country differences in this respect. Using data on over 1500 hospital employees who participated in the study 'Quality of work and life in a changing Europe' (2007) in eight European countries, we used ordinal regression analyses to test a range of hypotheses. The results show that work stress has a negative effect on the health of hospital employees, while work control is not found to have any effect on their health. Comparative analyses reveal that the effects of working conditions on health vary across European countries. While working overtime is more closely related to poorer health in Eastern European countries, we found evidence of a positive relationship between job autonomy and health in Western Europe only, indicating that circumstances in the working environment have differing effects on employee health in Eastern and Western Europe.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Databases, Factual
  • Europe
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Internal-External Control*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Occupational Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Personnel, Hospital / psychology*
  • Regression Analysis
  • Stress, Psychological / complications*
  • Workplace / psychology*
  • Young Adult