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Effort/reward imbalance and sedentary lifestyle: an observational study in a large occupational cohort
  1. A Kouvonen1,
  2. M Kivimäki1,2,
  3. M Elovainio3,
  4. J Pentti2,
  5. A Linna2,
  6. M Virtanen2,
  7. J Vahtera2
  1. 1Department of Psychology, University of Helsinki, Finland
  2. 2Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, Helsinki, Finland
  3. 3National Research and Development Centre for Welfare and Health (STAKES), Helsinki, Finland
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr A Kouvonen
 Department of Psychology, PO BOX 9, FIN-00014 University of Helsinki, Finland; anne.kouvonen{at}


Objectives: To investigate the association between effort/reward imbalance (ERI) at work and sedentary lifestyle.

Methods: Cross sectional data from the ongoing Finnish Public Sector Study related to 30 433 women and 7718 men aged 17–64 were used (n = 35 918 after exclusion of participants with missing values in covariates). From the responses to a questionnaire, an aggregated mean score for ERI in a work unit was assigned to each participant. The outcome was sedentary lifestyle defined as <2.00 metabolic equivalent task (MET) hours/day. Logistic regression with generalised estimating equations was used as an analysis method to include both individual and work unit level predictors in the models. Adjustments were made for age, marital status, occupational status, job contract, smoking, and heavy drinking.

Results: Twenty five per cent of women and 27% of men had a sedentary lifestyle. High individual level ERI was associated with a higher likelihood of sedentary lifestyle both among women (odds ratio (OR) = 1.08, 95% CI 1.01 to 1.16) and men (OR = 1.17, 95% CI 1.02 to 1.33). These associations were not explained by relevant confounders and they were also independent of work unit level job strain measured as a ratio of job demands and control.

Conclusions: A mismatch between high occupational effort spent and low reward received in turn seems to be associated with an increased risk of sedentary lifestyle, although this association is relatively weak.

  • ERI, effort/reward imbalance
  • MET, metabolic equivalent task
  • effort reward imbalance
  • physical activity
  • sedentary lifestyle
  • work stress

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  • Published Online First 23 February 2006

  • Competing interests: none.