Invited Commentary: Job Strain and Health Behaviors—Developing a Bigger Picture

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Abstract

Investigation of the association between job stressors and health behaviors has a long history that has been marked by mixed findings. Fransson et al. (Am J Epidemiol. 2012;176(12):1078–1089) find robust prospective and cross-sectional associations between job strain and leisure-time physical inactivity in combined data from 14 cohort studies. Further research to better understand the observed heterogeneity in the contributing cohorts and other studies will be crucial for application to intervention design and tailoring. The population health significance of these findings requires consideration of other job strain–health behavior (particularly the parallel analyses conducted for body mass index and smoking in the same data set) and job strain–health outcome associations, as well as these same associations for other job stressors. Job strain can be seen as a “fundamental cause” of work-related disease, in that intervention to reduce exposure to job strain could have beneficial impacts on many outcomes, making a compelling case for intervention. The significantly strengthened evidence linking job stressors to health behaviors provided by Fransson et al. may help to further direct workplace health promotion research, policy, and practice towards an approach that better integrates intervention on working conditions and health behaviors. The benefits to population health could be substantial.

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