Occupational Health Psychology

By Kelloway, E. Kevin | Canadian Psychology, May 2011 | Go to article overview
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Occupational Health Psychology

Kelloway, E. Kevin, Canadian Psychology

Occupational Health Psychology, by Stavroula Leka and Jonathon Houdmont (Editors). Oxford, UK: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010, 368 pages (ISBN 978-1-4051-6809115-9, CA$71.95, Paperback)


DOI: 10.1037/a0023317

Although a relatively young subfield in psychology, occupational health psychology (OHP) is at the point of consolidating a diverse research literature. Journals devoted to the field (e.g., Work & Stress, Journal of Occupational Health Psychology) have emerged and there are several collections devoted to summarising the research literature for researchers and graduate students. Leka and Houdmont offer a further contribution with this volume which they describe as the first textbook devoted to occupational health psychology intended for undergraduate instruction in the field.

Certainly there is a growing need for such a text. Undergraduate courses in occupational health psychology are beginning to emerge and, at present, instructors must either adapt texts from other areas (e.g., health psychology or occupational health and safety) or rely on collections of research articles. Despite this need, creating "the first" textbook in the field is a daunting task as such a venture is likely to be scrutinized by others in the field who may have themselves contemplated writing such a volume. Leka and Houdmont have chosen an interesting strategy in creating an edited textbook with individual chapters written by estabUshed experts in the field. In doing so, they have in many cases gotten "the best" people in a particular area to write chapters in their area of expertise.

Despite their reliance on multiple authors, the editors have maintained a consistent style throughout the volume ? each chapter begins with a chapter outline and ends with a chapter summary. Textboxes throughout are used to highlight individuals prominent in the field (e.g., Tom Cox) or to highlight applications and research issues and to provide definitions of key terms. I would expect that students will appreciate such pedagogical features in addition to the depth of expertise that underlies each chapter.

Although not divided into sections, one can intuit a structure to the book that begins with a broad perspective on occupational health psychology and then progressively adopts a narrower focus. As one would expect, the volume begins with an introduction to occupational health psychology authored by Leka and Houdmont. They offer a definition of the field as well as a brief history. Although based in the United Kingdom, they also incorporate the emergence of OHP as a field in North America. The first major set of chapters deals with issues of work stress. Cox and Griffiths (Chapter 2) provide a theoretical view of work stress ? they focus on the major theories that have dominated much of the recent research in the area. O'DriscoU and Brough (Chapter 3) review the effects of work organisation on health with a specific focus on psychosocial risk factors. In the fourth chapter, Randall and Nielsen review interventions designed to e?minate or mitigate the effects of workplace stressors. In Chapter 5, Leka and Cox review the management of psychosocial risk factors in organisations. This is an approach to stress management that is well established in the U.K. and has considerable potential for application in organisations.

In contrast to this narrowing focus on workplace stress, the next "set" of chapters deals with a variety of issues related to occupational health psychology. Noblet and Rodwell consider issues of workplace health promotion. Bakker and Derks review the implications of positive organisational scholarship for occupational health psychology. In Chapter 8, Leather Zarola and Santos consider the effect of the physical workplace ? an issue often overlooked by psychologists. Zwetsloot and Leka focus on issues of corporate culture with implications for health and well-being.

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