Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

The Relationship between Work Stress and Mental Health in Medical Workers in East China

Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

The Relationship between Work Stress and Mental Health in Medical Workers in East China

Article excerpt

Work stress has been extensively studied in recent years. However, researchers have paid more attention to the work stress of civil servants and teachers than to that of medical workers, even though Wu, Zhao, and Wang (2006) reported that in China medical workers had higher levels of stress than did office workers. In fact, work-related stress is quite common among medical workers in China. It is estimated that 85% of Chinese medical workers are under stress, and 53% are under intense stress (Tan, Yao, Cai, Wan, & Li, 2013; Wu et al., 2006), whereas in the US, Canada, Germany, and Scotland, the proportion of medical workers under stress is below 40% (Liao, 2006; Tan et al., 2013). Thus, in general, work stress among medical workers is more common and more severe in China than in Western countries.

The high stress level of medical workers is important because it is negatively related to both quality of work and quality of daily life, and may be associated with mental health (Abualrub & Al-Zaru, 2008; Ma, Yue, Zhou, & Huang, 2013). Doctors and nurses deal with unconventional emergencies and are at risk of being infected by patients with contagious diseases. In addition, they also make great efforts to provide optimal services consistent with public expectations. They are also more likely than office workers to express a close connection between their actual and ideal selves, indicating that they are more driven by their ideas (Liao, 2006; Tang & Xin, 2007). These factors are all likely to be associated with high levels of work stress and can result in negative emotions, thus supporting the idea that work stress is related to mental health.

Most of the recent studies in which the relationship between work stress and mental health in medical workers has been addressed, have been conducted in Western countries (Cole, May, & Hughes, 1991; Littlejohn, 2012; Snyder, Krauss, Chen, Finlinson, & Huang, 2008). The findings in the relatively few studies that have been conducted in China (Ding, Wang, & Pan, 2007; Zhao & Fang, 2005) are inconclusive, and it is unclear whether or not the findings of the Western studies are generalizable to non-Western countries such as China. In addition to cultural differences, there is a significant difference between the ratio of medical workers to patients in Western countries (about 12.83 medical workers to every 1,000 patients) and that in China (about 3.83 medical workers to every 1,000 patients). Researchers need to examine and clarify the relationship between work stress and mental health in Chinese medical workers.

East China is the most developed and populated area in China. Although East China accounts for only 8.3% of the total area of China, it contains one third of the population (Yi, Wang, Song, & Wang, 2011). East China is confronting a number of new public health challenges, which include the increasing burden of chronic noncommunicable diseases, mental health problems, injuries, an aging population, and environmental pollution, all of which require more medical workers and public health professionals. In addition, distinctive socioeconomic and cultural characteristics in East China may cause the relationship between work stress and mental health to differ from that in other areas of China.

In this study, we examined the relationship between work stress and mental health in medical workers in East China. We used the job demand-control (JDC) model (Karasek, 1979) to define work stress as experiences that are caused by a variety of individual physical and mental activities in the work process and that produce a certain psychological stress load (Snyder et al., 2008). We modified an existing tool that is used to measure work stress, Work Stress Profile, and performed a psychometric analysis to confirm its validity and reliability in a Chinese population. Participants in existing studies have been psychiatric doctors or nurses only, but as psychiatric workers are one group only and not representative, the findings are likely to be inconclusive. …

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