Background: Tobacco smoking is a major contributor to the public health burden and healthcare costs worldwide, but the determinants of smoking behaviours are poorly understood. We conducted a large individual-participant meta-analysis to examine the extent to which work-related stress, operationalised as job strain, is associated with tobacco smoking in working adults.
Methodology and principal findings: We analysed cross-sectional data from 15 European studies comprising 166,130 participants. Longitudinal data from six studies were used. Job strain and smoking were self-reported. Smoking was harmonised into three categories never, ex- and current. We modelled the cross-sectional associations using logistic regression and the results pooled in random effects meta-analyses. Mixed effects logistic regression was used to examine longitudinal associations. Of the 166,130 participants, 17% reported job strain, 42% were never smokers, 33% ex-smokers and 25% current smokers. In the analyses of the cross-sectional data, current smokers had higher odds of job strain than never-smokers (age, sex and socioeconomic position-adjusted odds ratio: 1.11, 95% confidence interval: 1.03, 1.18). Current smokers with job strain smoked, on average, three cigarettes per week more than current smokers without job strain. In the analyses of longitudinal data (1 to 9 years of follow-up), there was no clear evidence for longitudinal associations between job strain and taking up or quitting smoking.
Conclusions: Our findings show that smokers are slightly more likely than non-smokers to report work-related stress. In addition, smokers who reported work stress smoked, on average, slightly more cigarettes than stress-free smokers.