Date: 26 Oct 2012

Prevalence and occupational predictors of psychological distress in the offshore petroleum industry: a prospective study

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Abstract

Objectives

This study investigates the prevalence of psychological distress and stressors in the work environment as prospective predictors of distress, among employees in the offshore petroleum industry.

Methods

Correlation and logistic regression analyses were employed to examine longitudinal relationships between stressors and distress in a randomly drawn sample of 741 employees from the Norwegian petroleum offshore industry. Time lag between baseline and follow-up was 6 months. Work environment stressors included safety factors, leadership, and job characteristics.

Results

The prevalence of psychological distress was 9 % at baseline and 8 % at follow-up. All investigated work environment factors correlated with subsequent distress. In bivariate logistic regression analyses, caseness of distress was predicted by baseline distress, near miss accidents, risk perception, poor safety climate, tyrannical leadership, laissez-faire leadership, job demands, and workplace bullying. After adjustment for baseline distress, control variables, and other predictors, laissez-faire leadership (OR = 1.69; 95 % CI: 1.12–2.54) and exposure to bullying (OR = 1.49; 95 % CI: 1.07–2.10) emerged as the most robust predictors of subsequent distress.

Conclusions

The findings show that the prevalence of psychological distress is lower among offshore employees than in the general population. Although offshore workers operate in a physically challenging context, their mental health is mainly influenced by stressors in the psychosocial work environment. This highlights the importance of developing and implementing psychosocial safety interventions within the offshore industry.