Changing working conditions demand adaptation, resulting in higher stress levels in employees. In consequence, decreased productivity, increasing rates of sick leave, and cases of early retirement result in higher direct, indirect, and intangible costs. The aim of the study was to test the usefulness of a novel translational tool, Neuropattern, for early detection, prevention, and personalized treatment of stress-related disorders. The trial was designed as a pilot study with a wait list control group. In this study, 70 employees of the Forestry Department Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany were block-randomized and either underwent Neuropattern immediately, or after a waiting period of three months. After the diagnostic assessment, they received an explanatory disease model and individualized online counseling while their physicians were provided with diagnostic results and treatment recommendations. In order to assess possible beneficial effects of Neuropattern, questionnaires regarding health (SF-12), stress perception (PSS), emotional exhaustion (MBI), work stress (ERI) and work ability (WAI) as well as questions on health behavior were included at several time points. The application of Neuropattern resulted in significantly higher increase in measures of mental health and sporting activity and a significantly stronger decrease in perceived stress, emotional exhaustion and overcommitment, as compared to the control group. No such differences were found with regard to subjects’ physical health, current work ability, reward, effort-reward ratio and practice of relaxation methods. In addition, we unexpectedly found that subjects of the experimental group became significantly more pessimistic regarding their future work ability and showed higher rates of sick leave than control subjects did. These changes remained consistent during 3 and 6 months of follow-up. The present study encouraged the application of Neuropattern to early intervention in non-clinical populations. However, further research is required to determine the best operating conditions.
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The authors would like to thank Sandra Waeldin for her contribution in planning this project, as well as Lothar Runge, Jenny Vogel and the participating employees of Landesforsten Rheinland-Pfalz for their support.
Conflict of Interests
JH owns a trade mark protection for Neuropattern in the US and her company provides Neuropattern for clinical trials and patients. CC received a salary from the Stress Center Trier as a study manager during data collection. Data management, data analysis as well as writing the manuscript were part of her dissertation project, conducted externally, not as an employee of the Stress Center Trier. DH applies Neuropattern in his private practice. The authors state that there are no further conflict of interests.
Statement of Authorship
DH, JH and CC were responsible for conception and design of the RCT. CC drafted the manuscript, CC and FG performed the statistical analyses. FG helped with interpretation of the data. All authors helped writing and reviewing the manuscript and have approved the final article.
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Contreras, C., Hellhammer, J., Gerhards, F. et al. Neuropattern, a Translational Tool to Reduce Stress at Work – a Pilot Study. Occup Health Sci 2, 385–407 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s41542-018-0025-5
- Work stress
- Conceptual Endophenotypes
- Personalized Medicine