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Two models of job stress and depressive symptoms

Results from a population-based study

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Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology Aims and scope Submit manuscript



Evidence indicates that an adverse psychosocial work environment contributes to the explanation of depressive symptoms. Research was mainly informed by two theoretical models, the demand-control and the effort-reward imbalance model. Yet, a comparative analysis of the two models, using original scales, has not yet been conducted in an unselected working population.


A total of 1,811 working men and women from the baseline screening of an epidemiological cohort study were interviewed (job stress, depressive symptoms [CES-D], health behaviours, medical history, socio-demographic characteristics). Logistic regression models were calculated to estimate associations between depressive symptoms, the two job stress models and relevant covariates.


Analyses showed significantly increased multivariate odds ratio (OR) of job strain and effort-reward imbalance. When the two models were mutually adjusted control [OR, 95%CI = 1.9, 1.3–2.7], effort-reward imbalance [OR, 95%CI = 3.4, 2.1–5.1] and overcommitment OR, 95%CI = 3.9, 2.7–5.8] were independently associated with depressive symptoms Additional tests of interaction between the models revealed relatively highest level of depressive symptoms in employees who simultaneously reported low control and high overcommitment.


Components of an adverse psychosocial work environment are associated with depressive symptoms in an unselected working population. Policy implications of accumulated evidence on this relation should be addressed.

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We thank the Heinz Nixdorf Foundation (Chairman: Dr. jur. G. Schmidt, Essen, Germany) for the sponsoring of this study. This study is also supported by the German Ministry of Education and Science. We are indebted to the investigative group and the study personnel of the Heinz Nixdorf Recall Study, in particular EM Beck, IMIBE, Dr. GF Matysik, and Dr. M Bröcker from the Dept. of Clinical Chemistry and Laboratory Medicine. Finally we thank the German Research Council (DFG; Project SI 236/8-1) for sponsoring additional assessment of psychosocial factors.

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Correspondence to Nico Dragano.

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Dragano, N., He, Y., Moebus, S. et al. Two models of job stress and depressive symptoms. Soc Psychiat Epidemiol 43, 72–78 (2008).

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