Johansson et al. (78)

Key study, looking at the workplace as a source of stress. 

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To investigate whether work stressors, repetitiveness, machine-regulated pace of work, high responsibility levels, increases physiological arousal and stress-related ilness. 

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  • Identified a high-risk group of 14 'finishers' in a Sweedish sawmill. There job was to finish off the processed wood at the last stage of processing timber. 
  • The 14 'finishers' were compared with low-risk group of 10 cleaners (control group), whose work was varied and self-paced, which allowed more time to socialise with other workers. 
  • Levels of stress-related hormones (adrenaline & noradrenaline) in the urine was measured on work days and rest days. 
  • Records were kept of stress-related illness and absenteeism.   
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The high-risk grop of finishers were found to secreted more stress hormones on work days than on rest days, and higher levels than the control group. 

The 'finishers' also showed significantly higher levels of stress-related illness which resulted in higher levels of absenteeism, than the low-risk cleaners. 

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  • The combination of workplace stressors - especially repetitiveness, machine-based work and high levels of responsibility could lead to long-term (chronic ) physiological arousal. This in turn leads to stress-related illness and absenteeism. 
  • If employers want to reduce illness and absenteism they need to find ways of reducing work stressors. For example, allowing them to have some sense of control over the pace of their work. 
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  • Individual differences are not controlled in this study. it may be that some people are vulnerable to stress (e.g. those exhibiting type A behaviour) are attracted to high demanding jobs. 
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