Do the daily experiences of healthy men and women vary according to occupational prestige and work strain?

Matthews, Karen A.; Raikkonen, Katri; Everson, Susan A.; Flory, Janine D.; Marco, Christine A.; Owens, Jane F. and Lloyd, Catherine E. (2000). Do the daily experiences of healthy men and women vary according to occupational prestige and work strain? Psychosomatic Medicine, 62(3) pp. 346–353.



OBJECTIVE: This study evaluated the influence of occupational prestige and work strain on mood, the occurrence of interpersonal conflict, and ambulatory blood pressure and heart rate.

METHODS: Participants were 50 men and 50 women matched for occupational prestige who were healthy and middle-aged and who completed measures of mood and conflict simultaneously with measures of ambulatory blood pressure and heart rate recorded every 30 minutes during waking hours of two workdays and one nonworkday; at the end of each day, overall ratings were made. Work strain was assessed by the Work Section of the Self-Evaluation and Social Support Interview Schedule. Multiple level random regression coefficients analyses were conducted.

RESULTS: Men and women with low-prestige occupations experienced more interpersonal conflict, b = -0.03,

p = .04, and higher ambulatory heart rate, b = -4.83, p = .004, throughout the three days of the study. Relative to those with low work strain, those reporting high work strain experienced negative emotion, b = -0.41, p < .0001, and boredom, b = -0.17, p < .0004. End of the day ratings of negative mood were more influenced by work strain among men than among women. No effects of occupational prestige or work strain were obtained for ambulatory blood pressure readings after adjustment for physical activity, posture, and location.

CONCLUSIONS: Individuals in low-prestige occupations experience greater exposure to interpersonal conflict and arousal as indexed by heart rate, which might increase risk for stress-related illnesses often associated with social class. Individuals who report work strain experience negative mood and boredom, both at work and at home. The absence of work effects on ambulatory blood pressure may be due to the participants being healthy.

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