Dimensional comparability of psychosocial working conditions as covered in European monitoring questionnaires

BMC Public Health. 2014 Dec 9;14:1251. doi: 10.1186/1471-2458-14-1251.


Background: In most countries in the EU, national surveys are used to monitor working conditions and health. Since the development processes behind the various surveys are not necessarily theoretical, but certainly practical and political, the extent of similarity among the dimensions covered in these surveys has been unclear. Another interesting question is whether prominent models from scientific research on work and health are present in the surveys--bearing in mind that the primary focus of these surveys is on monitoring status and trends, not on mapping scientific models. Moreover, it is relevant to know which other scales and concepts not stemming from these models have been included in the surveys. The purpose of this paper is to determine (1) the similarity of dimensions covered in the surveys included and (2) the congruence of dimensions of scientific research and of dimensions present in the monitoring systems.

Method: Items from surveys representing six European countries and one European wide survey were classified into the dimensions they cover, using a taxonomy agreed upon among all involved partners from the six countries.

Results: The classification reveals that there is a large overlap of dimensions, albeit not in the formulation of items, covered in the seven surveys. Among the available items, the two prominent work-stress-models--job-demand-control-support-model (DCS) and effort-reward-imbalance-model (ERI)--are covered in most surveys even though this has not been the primary aim in the compilation of these surveys. In addition, a large variety of items included in the surveillance systems are not part of these models and are--at least partly--used in nearly all surveys. These additional items reflect concepts such as "restructuring", "meaning of work", "emotional demands" and "offensive behaviour/violence & harassment".

Conclusions: The overlap of the dimensions being covered in the various questionnaires indicates that the interests of the parties deciding on the questionnaires in the different countries overlap. The large number of dimensions measured in the questionnaires and not being part of the DCS and ERI models is striking. These "new" dimensions could inspire the research community to further investigate their possible health and labour market effects.

MeSH terms

  • Europe / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Population Surveillance / methods
  • Stress, Psychological / epidemiology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires / standards*
  • Workplace / psychology*