Psychosocial safety climate: a multilevel theory of work stress in the health and community service sector

Epidemiol Psychiatr Sci. 2011 Dec;20(4):287-93. doi: 10.1017/s2045796011000588.


Work stress is widely thought to be a significant problem in the health and community services sector. We reviewed evidence from a range of different data sources that confirms this belief. High levels of psychosocial risk factors, psychological health problems and workers compensation claims for stress are found in the sector. We propose a multilevel theoretical model of work stress to account for the results. Psychosocial safety climate (PSC) refers to a climate for psychological health and safety. It reflects the balance of concern by management about psychological health v. productivity. By extending the health erosion and motivational paths of the Job Demands-Resources model we propose that PSC within work organisations predicts work conditions and in turn psychological health and engagement. Over and above this, however, we expect that the external environment of the sector particularly government policies, driven by economic rationalist ideology, is increasing work pressure and exhaustion. These conditions are likely to lead to a reduced quality of service, errors and mistakes.

Publication types

  • Editorial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Community Health Services
  • Employment / psychology*
  • Health Personnel / psychology*
  • Health Services*
  • Humans
  • Occupational Diseases / psychology*
  • Occupational Health*
  • Risk Factors
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology*
  • Workers' Compensation
  • Workload / psychology