Autonomic nervous system activity and workplace stressors—A systematic review

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This systematic review evaluates and summarizes the evidence of the association between psychosocial work environment as indicated by several work-stress models such as Job-Demand-Control (JDC), Effort-Reward-Imbalance (ERI), or Organizational Justice (OJ) and autonomic nervous system (ANS) function as indexed by heart rate variability (HRV).


We conducted a systematic literature search following the PRISMA-Statement in eleven databases including Medline, Web of Science and PsycINFO to address medical as well as psychological aspects of the relation between psychosocial work-stress models and HRV.


We identified 19 publications with a total of 8382 employees from ten countries reporting data from the years 1976–2008.


Overall, nine of all studies report a negative and significant association between vagally-mediated HRV and measures of stress at work, while eight of all studies report a negative and significant association to mixed sympathetic and parasympathetic measures of HRV.


This systematic review provides evidence that adverse psychosocial work conditions are negatively associated with ANS function as indexed by HRV.

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