Broader contextual factors that take into account the social, built and physical environments experienced outside the workplace are important determinants to worker health. Furthermore non-work related psychosocial stressors are likely closely related to psychosocial stress at work, and may contribute an additional layer of health risk to the worker. These factors are important contributors to widening health disparities and incorporating them into studies of traditional occupational health exposures will provide a better understanding of “total worker health”.
In this presentation, we will focus on contextual and individual level stressors that may be important to occupation health outcomes but are less frequently incorporated. Specifically we will discuss how to conceptualise and measure these constructs and will provide some motivation for their relevance to occupation health. For example, individual and neighbourhood level stressors may be potential modifiers in the association between occupational exposures and outcomes, helping us identify vulnerable populations. Alternatively they may have a synergistic effect with occupational exposures suggesting potential mechanism of action.
Specifically a discussion of important neighbourhood or other contextual level factors will focus on issues of measurement and conceptualization. We will draw on research from sociology and elsewhere to describe the state of the art in measuring neighbourhood social environments using existing data sources and primary data collection efforts such as systematic social observation. Furthermore, we will also address how to bring these factors into analytic structures (e.g. multi-level models). Individual level psychosocial stressor experienced outside the workplace (e.g. chronic stress, discrimination and social class) are more proximal to and possibly more powerful predictors of occupational health outcomes. We will discuss measurement strategies for these factors as well. The intent of this presentation is to lay the groundwork for a larger discussion of new challenges in occupational health.
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