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Prospective study of job stress and risk of infections in Swedish adults


Objectives Psychological stress may influence both susceptibility and severity of infections. Although work-related stress is a widespread concern among many employees, few studies have been conducted with the focus on work stressors and infections. We therefore aimed to investigate this association in a prospective cohort study.

Methods Our study included 25 029 employed individuals who filled-out a questionnaire in September 1997 and were followed through record linkages until retirement or December 2016. Work stress was assessed at baseline using a Swedish version of the Demand-Control Questionnaire, whereas hospital contacts related to infections were identified from the National Patient Register. We fitted extensions of the standard Cox model to account for recurrent infections.

Results In total, we observed 8257 infections. Individuals in the third tertile of job demand had a 13% higher hazard of infections (HR=1.13; 95% CI=1.03 to 1.24) compared with individuals in the first tertile, specifically an increased incidence of upper respiratory tract infections (HR=1.15; 95% CI=1.00 to 1.33) and urinary tract infections (HR=1.31; 95% CI=1.09 to 1.57) was found. Employees with the highest job control (third tertile) had no lower risk of infections than individuals in the lowest tertile (HR=1.02; 95% CI=0.92 to 1.13). When combining the demand and control dimensions into job strain scale, no association between high job strain and infections was observed (HR=1.08; 95% CI=0.97 to 1.21).

Conclusion High job demand, but not low job control, is associated with an increased occurrence of infections. No difference was observed in workers with high strain jobs compared with those with low strain jobs.

  • epidemiology
  • statistics
  • stress
  • workload
  • viruses
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