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Short- and long-term effects of major organisational change on minor psychiatric disorder and self-rated health: results from the Whitehall II study
  1. Helena Falkenberg1,
  2. Eleonor I Fransson2,3,
  3. Hugo Westerlund4,
  4. Jenny A Head5
  1. 1Department of Psychology, Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden
  2. 2Department of Natural Science and Biomedicine, School of Health Sciences, Jönköping University, Jönköping, Sweden
  3. 3Institute of Environmental Medicine, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden
  4. 4Stress Research Institute, Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden
  5. 5Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College London, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Helena Falkenberg, Department of Psychology, Stockholm University, Stockholm SE-106 91, Sweden; hfg{at}


Objective To investigate short- and long-term effects of major organisational change on minor psychiatric disorder and self-rated health for women and men in different employment grades.

Methods Minor psychiatric disorder and self-rated health among 6710 British civil servants (1993 women and 4717 men) in three employment grades from the Whitehall II study were examined from 1985 to 1988 under stable employment conditions. The short-term effects of organisational change were investigated in 1991–1993 after a time of major restructuring aiming at increasing the influence of market forces in the civil service and the long-term effects were investigated in 1997–1999.

Results Those who had experienced organisational change and those who anticipated organisational change reported more negative short-term health effects (minor psychiatric disorder and poor self-rated health) compared with those who reported no change. No major differences were found depending on employment grade or gender. The negative health effects had diminished during 1997–1999 for those who reported that a major change had happened before 1991–1993. Those who anticipated an organisational change in 1991–1993 still reported more ill-health in 1997–1999 (both minor psychiatric disorder and self-reported health) than those in the comparison group.

Conclusions The results indicate that organisational change affects employees’ health negatively in the short term but also that it is possible to recover from such negative effects. As it was not possible to discern any definite difference between the gender and grades, the results point at the importance of working proactively to implement organisational change for women and men at all levels.

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