THE OCCUPATIONAL STRESS INDEX: AN INTRODUCTION By Dr. Karen Belkic August, 2000
A BRIEF BACKROUND
The Occupational Stress Index (OSI) is an additive burden model, which focuses on work stressors relevant to the cardiovascular system (Belkic 1995(a)). The OSI incorporates elements of the Job Strain Model (Karasek 1979), as well as other formulations of how stress leads to cardiovascular disease, such as features of work in high-risk occupations. However, in contrast to constructs such as Job Strain (Ibid.) and Effort-Reward Imbalance (Siegrist 1991, 1996), which are based heavily upon sociological theory, the OSI derives more from cognitive ergonomics and brain research, attempting to describe, in quantitative terms, the burden of work processes upon the human being. The underlying motivation for developing such an approach is to help pinpoint areas for intervention, by striving to reflect actual work experiences.
There have been two major approaches in occupational psychosocial research using self-report methods. One has been to develop occupation-specific questions. This can provide rich, detailed information useful in identifying key areas for intervention. However, these job-specific questionnaires generally cannot measure job stressors across various occupations. The other approach has been to measure generic job characteristics using questions of a general nature. However, “this approach is less useful for intervention studies, because questions are more ‘remote from actual work experiences'” (Landsbergis 2000). The OSI represents a potential means of bridging these two divergent approaches. As stated by Landsbergis and Theorell (Ibid): ” A recent innovative approach used occupation-specific questions (useful for workplace interventions), that are based on general questions. The Occupational Stress Index (OSI) can be tailored to specific occupations, thus allowing comparison among occupations of the stress burden faced by workers” (p. 164). We can make comparisons regarding the total burden, as well as in the nature of the occupational stress burden. These questions are of interest not only in the research setting, but are also those articulated by working people themselves.
Marianne Frankenhauser’s effort-distress model has been tested in a number of studies (26, 27). Lundberg and Frankenhauser (1980) reported on a laboratory study in which healthy adults performed two tasks.
Marianne Frankenhauser and her colleagues in Sweden have confirmed the involvement of two neuroendocrine systems in the stress response
The Person-Environment (P-E) Fit model, developed in the early 1970s by researchers at the University of Michigan, states that strain develops when there is a discrepancy between the motives of the person and the supplies of the environment (job), or between the demands of the job and the abilities of the person to meet those demands.
The “job strain” model was not designed to replace the earlier more complex person-environment model of occupational stress originating from the University of Michigan (16, 42) or the recent refinement of the Michigan model by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) (44)