The HSE indicator tool, psychological distress and work ability

Occup Med (Lond). 2012 Apr;62(3):203-9. doi: 10.1093/occmed/kqs021. Epub 2012 Mar 6.


Background: The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) indicator tool is one of the most commonly used tools for assessing the risk of work-related stress. Few studies, however, have investigated whether and how its scales are related to psychological distress or other work-related health outcomes.

Aims: To investigate the relationship between the HSE indicator tool, psychological distress, as measured by the General Health Questionnaire (GHQ)-12, and work ability, assessed by the Work Ability Index (WAI).

Methods: All the employees of a mid-sized bank in Italy were asked to fill in an anonymous cross-sectional questionnaire. The questionnaire was structured in four sections: the first one comprised socio-demographic questions and the other three corresponded, respectively, to the Italian translations of the GHQ-12, the HSE and the WAI questionnaires.

Results: Four hundred and thirteen employees completed the questionnaire. The response rate was 99%. Controlling for age and gender, the indicator subscales were negatively associated with the adopted measures of psychological distress and work ability. The GHQ score was also highly correlated with the WAI score and able to explain ≈ 47% of its variance. The only subscale that was still significantly associated with the WAI after removing the effect of psychological distress was 'control'.

Conclusions: The study presents new evidence for the validity of the HSE indicator tool to estimate the risk of work-related stress and suggests that most but not all the effects of psychosocial conditions on work ability might be mediated by the level of psychological distress induced by these conditions.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anxiety / diagnosis
  • Anxiety / epidemiology
  • Depression / diagnosis
  • Depression / epidemiology
  • Employment / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Italy / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Occupational Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Occupational Diseases / epidemiology
  • Psychometrics
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Stress, Psychological / diagnosis*
  • Stress, Psychological / epidemiology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Work
  • Young Adult