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Psychological Health Risks for Workers in Italy

Risques pour la santé psychologique des travailleurs en Italie
Carlo Lucarelli et Barbara Boschetto
p. 97-110

Résumés

Depuis plusieurs années déjà, les politiques sociales de l’Union Européenne se préoccupent des questions de santé et de sécurité au travail. Le stress, particulièrement, dont les facteurs de risque sont nombreux, est dorénavant perçu comme un problème de santé professionnelle important. Pour mieux comprendre ces problèmes, un nouveau module a été intégré à l’Enquête sur la population active de 2007, qui rassemble, entre autres, des informations sur la présence de problème(s) de santé lié(s) au travail et des facteurs de risque pour la santé des travailleurs. À partir des données de ce module dans le cas de l’Italie, cette étude montre qu’une proportion importante des travailleurs italiens souffre de problèmes de stress liés à l’emploi. Ces problèmes sont souvent en rapport avec l’exposition à des facteurs de risque pour la santé psychologique présents dans le milieu de travail tels que pression du temps et surcharge de travail, intimidation et harcèlement, violence ou menace de violence. Ces observations sont faites à partir des résultats d’analyses de régression logistique qui démontrent la présence de liens significatifs entre le stress lié à l’emploi et le type d’emploi occupé (profession, secteur d’activité économique, durée du contrat, etc.) et l’exposition à des facteurs de risque dans l’environnement professionnel, indépendamment des caractéristiques sociodémographiques des travailleurs (âge, sexe, éducation, région de résidence). Les travailleurs qui subissent une forte pression du temps et/ou une surcharge de travail, vivent des situations d’intimidation et/ou de harcèlement ou sont victimes de violence et/ou de menaces de violence sont plus nombreux à faire part de problèmes de stress au travail que ceux qui ne vivent pas ces situations.

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Texte intégral

Introduction

Risks for health and psychological well-being of workers

1Work environments very often pose a variety of risks to the health of the workers themselves. This has been evidenced by the statistics on accidents at work as well as by the losses of life that are reported in the modern media on an almost daily basis. About 900,000 accidents at work occur in Italy every year [INAIL, 2009], and this figure remains noteworthy even while representing a steady decrease over time. It should be remembered, however, that these data are limited to well-defined events with clearly identifiable causes and effects. Worker health is influenced by many other factors that are much more difficult to individuate precisely, as in the general case of occupational diseases. The outline becomes even more obfuscated when perils regarding psychological health are involved. No one questions the fact that extreme work conditions are just as likely to produce toxic effects for the mental state of workers as they are to produce more overt pathologies. Particularly frenetic work activities involving deadlines that do not always correspond with actual worker capacities represent a common channel through which stress blossoms into health problems. In many cases the undue pressures imposed on the worker's psyche derive from relationships with other workers, like managers, colleagues and other types of interlocutors who populate the work place. Domineering behavior, discrimination, mobbing and even outright threats are not as uncommon as one might think, as illustrated below.

2A great deal of research concerns the influence of factors that can adversely affect the psychological well-being of workers. In particular we take into account the role of exposure to overload of work and time pressure, harassment, bullying and discrimination and violence or treat of violence in the onset of work related mental problems as stress, anxiety and depression. According to a literature review, most studies agree that overload of work and working under time pressure conditions, that we can summarize as parts of work intensification [Théry, 2006], is an important occupational stressor which reduces job satisfaction, multiplies the effects of other stressors and increases the risk of problems with mental health [Burchell 2004]. Work intensification can have a direct influence not only in stress-related diseases but also on the occurrence of musculoskeletal diseases (Kompier and Levy 1994, European Foundation 2002). Increased pathological risks of high stress to the cardiovascular system [Schnall et al., 2000 ; Belkic et al., 2004] and to the occurrence of strokes [Ferrario et al., 2005], as well as harmful health effects of effort–reward imbalance Siegrist (1996), have been established. Nonetheless, studies examining processes of work intensification highlights the unstable nature of the phenomenon, namely in relation to the measurement of work intensity [Docherty et al., 2002]. However, in particular conditions, work intensification can lead to individual investment and learning, greater worker responsibility, social reward and job satisfaction [Perilleux, 2006].

3The psychological well-being of workers is also influenced by workplace violence, be it psychological violence or physical violence. The social preoccupation in workplace violence has increased over the past few years and different political and labour institutions, on a national and international level, have pronounced, through different documents, their concern on this topic e.g. the European Parliament (2001), the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (2002), the International Labour Organisation (ILO) (2003) and the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (2006a). The concept of violence at work is defined in many different ways [e.g. Wynne, 1997 ; Krug et al., 2002 ; ILO, 2003]. As far as psychological violence is concerned, according to the country, cultural or geographical area, different terms such as ‘mobbing’, ‘bullying’ or ‘harassment’ are used to refer to the same problem [Leymann, 1996 ; Commission of the European Communities, 2001 ; Di Martino et al,. 2003]. Some authors consider bullying (mobbing) to be related to both psychological as well as physical violence, although they consider physical violence to be relatively rare [Zapf et al., 1996]. Risks of physical violence are more likely in some type of occupations such as police officers, security personnel, social workers, healthcare workers and public transport drivers [Di Martino et al., 2003 ; Upson, 2004]. Service and sales workers are somewhat more vulnerable to bullying than workers from other occupations [Paoli, 2000].

4According to the Fourth European working conditions survey [European Foundation, 2006b], which was carried out in 2005 across all EU-27 countries, about 6 % of all workers declared being subjected to some form of violence, bullying or harassment. In comparison with the previous survey [Paoli and Merllié, 2001], the level of violence has increased slightly in the EU-15 (from 4 % to 6 %). and women, especially young women, were more often than men the subject of bullying and harassment (except physical violence from other people, which was experienced slightly more often by men). Workplace violence and bullying have very complex, multi-factorial causes, but different studies show certain consensus. For example Salin (2003) distinguish three groups of factors related to the appearance of violence and bullying :

  • enabling structures or necessary antecedents (e.g. perceived power imbalances, dissatisfaction, and frustration) ;

  • motivating structures or incentives (e.g. internal competition and reward systems) ;

  • precipitating processes or triggering circumstances (e.g. organisational changes, downsizing and restructuring).

5Violence and bullying are important sources of stress [Vartia, 2001 ; Di Martino et al., 2003 ; Almodovar Molina et al., 2004 ; Hansen et al., 2006], and thus negatively affect physical and mental health. As far as mental health is concerned somatic pathologies such as organic functional and sleep disorders [Hansen et al., 2006], chronic fatigue, muscular and joint pain and headaches can appear [Piñuel, 2004] as well as post-traumatic stress disorder [Hoel et al., 2002]. In the case of bullying, depending on length and magnitude, paranoia disorders and even suicide can appear [Leymann, 1996 ; Di Martino et al., 2003]. Others studies have reported that violence and bullying are associated with reduced productivity, increased sickness, absenteeism and turnover rates, replacement and additional retirement costs [Hoel et al., 2002 ; Di Martino et al., 2003] and with deteriorating work relationships [Leymann, 1996], dissatisfaction with work, lack of motivation and low efficiency [Hoel et al., 2002, Di Martino et al., 2003].

Measuring occupational health and psychological well-being : from European strategy to ad hoc module

6The issue of occupational health and safety has been a central point of the European Union's social policy agenda for many years now. Towards the end of the 1980s, what was the European Community at the time began to reach out for concrete responses to this important problem by adopting regulatory instruments, in the form of Directives and legal frameworks, that were intended to begin clarifying a common, organic conception of workplace safety. The 2002-2006 Community strategy for health and safety - Adapting to change in work and society [European Commission, 2002] was released with the object of promoting the continuous improvement of physical, moral and social well-being in the workplace by means of :

  • ongoing reductions in accidents and occupational diseases ;

  • integration of the gender dimension ;

  • prevention of social risks ;

  • better prevention of occupational diseases ;

  • examination of how risks, accidents and diseases evolve in demographic terms ;

  • studying the transformation of occupational forms and the organizational methods applied to work and work schedules ;

  • considering the nature and size of the businesses involved ;

  • analyzing new and emerging risks

7The path to achieving these objectives involves strengthening the culture of prevention, improving existing legislation and making greater efforts to promote the national adoption of Community directives, an action which has become even more important since the recent enlargement of the Union. In the interest of providing more support for this assessment, the European Commission issued a regulation (N° 341 of 2006) prescribing that an ad hoc module on industrial accidents and work-related health problems be incorporated in the Labour Force Survey questionnaire. In the second quarter of 2007, the survey was applied in a coordinated fashion to all 27 countries of the Union. At national-level a decision was made to supplement the prescribed inquiries with additional information in order to provide an even greater level of detail about accidents that occur while commuting as well as worker exposure to health-related risk factors. The periods of reference for the survey were defined as the 12 months prior to the interview (for accidents and work-related health problems) and the current situation (for exposure to risk factors). In the year 2013 survey, a new ad hoc module will address the same issue after the new European strategy on occupational health and safety 2007-2012 [European Commission, 2007].

Objective of the study

8This study sets out to summarize the current status of the various elements that come together to delineate the psychological and mental dimension of occupational health and safety in Italy. This is done using data from the year 2007 Labor Force Survey (LFS). An effort was made to identify both the manifest component of psychological problems (work-related illnesses) and the latent dimension (exposure to risk factors that can adversely affect health). This was done by focusing on exposure to specific factors that pose risks to psychological health, such as excessive workloads or time pressures, discriminatory or domineering attitudes and threats or physical violence.

Methodology

9Istat (Italian National Institute of Statistics) derives its official estimates of the number of employed persons and job-seekers, as well as information about the main labour supply aggregates, such as occupation, economic activity area, hours worked, contract types and duration and training from the Labour Force Survey (LFS). Since being introduced at the beginning of the 1950s, the LFS has played a primary role in the statistical documentation and analysis of the employment situation in Italy and has proven to be an indispensable instrument of knowledge for public decision-makers, the media and citizens alike. The survey has been updated over the years to take into account continual transformations in the labour market and the growing information requirements of users regarding the social and economic reality of Italy. The most recent change was undertaken at the beginning of 2004 in line with European Union regulations.

10The sampling of the survey is carried out in two stages. The primary units are the Municipalities stratified into about 1,240 groups at the provincial level (Figure 1). The stratification strategy is based on the demographic size of the Municipality. The sample scheme provides one primary unit (Municipalities) for each group. The secondary units are the households and they are selected from the Municipality population Register. The dimension of the sample is nearly 77,000 households, representing 175,000 individuals who are resident in Italy, even if they are temporarily abroad. Households usually living abroad and residents of communal establishments (e.g. religious institutes, military barracks, etc.) are not included. The LFS sample is designed to guarantee annual estimates of principal indicators of labour market at the provincial level (NUTS III), quarterly estimates at the regional level (NUTS II) and monthly estimates at the national level. Moreover the current sample survey is continuous insofar as information is collected throughout the year and no longer during a single week per quarter. Each household is interviewed for two consecutive quarters, followed by a pause for the next two quarters, after which the household is again interviewed for another two quarters. In total, the household remains in the sample for a period of 15 months. The survey sample is composed of persons aged 15 years and older, both employed and unemployed with previous working experience.

Figure 1. Italy : Provinces and geographical area (North, Centre, South)

Figure 1. Italy : Provinces and geographical area (North, Centre, South)

Results

Descriptive analyses : The problem of work-derived stress and the exposure to risk factors for psychological health

Health and stress-related problems

  • 1 The number of job-holders who reported suffering from health problems that were caused by or aggrav (...)

11In the second quarter of 2007, 2,797 million people reported suffering from work-related health problems that had either been caused by or aggravated by their work activity over the previous 12 months. Out of this group, 454,000 (16.2 %) individuals complained of problems involving stress, depression or anxiety. The data on stress represent a systematic underestimation of the global phenomenon, because respondents were permitted to declare if they suffer more than one health problem, but whenever two or more health problems are reported, respondents are asked to focus exclusively on what they considered most serious. Therefore no information was collected among people reporting suffering from stress as a secondary health issue. While the survey on health problems was applied to anyone who currently has a job or who used to work, the presence of stress is significantly higher (21.4 % of all reported health problems) when the sample is limited to current job-holders1 (Table 1).

Table 1. Employed people suffering from a work-related health problems due to main working activity during the last 12 months by sex, geographical area and age - 2007, second quarter

 

Proportion of

problems ( %)

Proportion of Stress / Health problems

Workers suffering

from stress

Total Health problems

Stress

 %

(per 1000 employed with the same features)

Total

100.0

100.0

21.4

15.1

Gender

Men

59.4

53.8

19.4

13.4

Women

40.6

46.2

24.4

17.7

Geographical area

North

50.4

50.7

21.6

15.0

Centre

23.0

24.2

22.6

17.6

South

26.6

25.1

20.2

13.5

Age

15-24

2.5

1.4

11.9

3.2

25-34

16.2

17.8

23.6

10.8

35-44

32.8

30.8

20.1

14.7

45-54

33.9

37.3

23.6

22.6

55-64

13.1

11.9

19.4

17.4

65 and more

1.5

0.8

12.0

7.8

12Stress is the dominant health problem for women (24.4 %, as compared to 19.4 % for men) and the 25-34 and 45-54 year old age groups. There are no major divergences in terms of territory, with the Center of Italy registering ranked first with 22.6 % of job-holders being affected by the problem (Figure 1). As one might expect, the impact of the phenomenon weighs heavier on intellectual and managerial professions than manual labor and service sector work (Table 2). More than 37‰ of managers and 22‰ of employees work under psychological pressures that are strong enough to manifest as a full-fledged health problem. Entrepreneurs and free-lance workers exhibit a lower propensity to complain of health problems, though stress accounts for a significant 36 percent of such problems. In health, education, public administration (in the strict sense) and financial intermediation the impact of this phenomenon is well over 20‰.

13Rather than implying that manual laborers experience relatively less psychological tension, these findings highlight how manual laborers are more often afflicted by physical problems due to the nature of their work, thus shifting the presence of anxiety to a secondary level. The 15.8‰ value measured for temporary freelance contact workers makes this category more similar to managerial and administrative work than to manual labor. The professional contiguity reported between collaborators and their regularly-employed counterparts is witnessed in terms of anxiety levels.

14Data examined here confirm many of the suppositions that have been circulating among labor market analysts, namely the relationship between stress and various aspects of the worker profile : occupations involving greater responsibility, higher concentrations in various compartments of the service sector. There is no obvious explanation, on the other hand, for why the phenomenon has a greater impact on open-ended contracts than on more precarious ones. We can presume the involvement of a less obvious explanation or a factor that was not examined here, one that is somehow inherent to the open-ended nature of the contract itself. Fixed-term workers tend to be younger than open-ended workers and hold much less seniority where they work. They also tend to have higher expectations with respect to a career yet to come, and all of these factors lead to a lower propensity to complain of (or even experience) work-related health problems, including those related to psychological health.

Table 2. Employed people suffering from a work-related health problems due to main working activity during the last 12 months by professional status and economic activity - 2007, second quarter

 

Proportion of problems ( %)

Proportion of Stress / Health problems

Workers suffering from stress

Total Health problems

Stress

 %

(per 1000 employed with the same features)

Total

100.0

100.0

21.4

15.1

Professional status

Manager/Executive

9.8

17.9

39.2

37.3

Clerk

30.9

41.9

29.1

20.7

Worker

33.7

16.2

10.3

7.1

Other employee

0.3

0.2

15.2

2.4

Entrepreneur/Professional

5.4

9.1

36.3

22.2

Self-employed

16.5

11.9

15.4

11.3

Other independent

1.5

0.5

7.0

3.6

Temporary freelance contract

2.0

2.3

24.9

15.8

Economic activity

Agriculture

4.8

1.4

6.0

5.2

Energy

0.6

1.2

40.5

24.5

Manufacturing

18.3

14.2

16.6

10.2

Construction

8.7

2.4

5.9

4.2

Wholesale, retail repairs

11.2

13.4

25.5

13.3

Hotels and Restaurants

4.1

3.1

16.2

9.1

Transports, communications

6.7

6.7

21.5

18.8

Financial intermediation

3.0

4.8

34.4

21.1

Real estate business act.

8.7

13.4

32.9

19.6

Public administration

8.2

9.5

25.0

23.9

Education

10.1

14.9

31.7

32.3

Health

10.1

10.3

21.8

23.3

Other services

5.4

4.8

19.0

11.1

Activity limitations due to health and stress-related problems

15Almost 2 in 3 workers who suffer from work-related health problems declare to be suffering limitations in everyday life due to these problems (Table 3). About 6 % of this population reported that their health problem considerably limits their activities. When stress is considered in isolation from the other factors, the percentages are analogous to the percentages for diseases in general. This demonstrates that psychological disturbances have the same degree of impact on everyday life as do physical ones, which have more overt manifestations. In addition, no significant gender differences were identified.

16In 67.3 % of the cases, people reporting suffering from stress did not report taking any sick leave ; this proportion was 55.6 % among people reporting health problems. The lower impact in terms of work days lost, however, should not lead us to assume that stress-related problems are any less serious than physical problems. Physical problems almost always force the worker to remain physically at home, thus making this type of phenomenon more visible than stress, which is more difficult to measure. Physical difficulties are thus more likely to compromise work capacity completely, and this makes them more demonstrable in the eyes of the work provider or controller. In addition to being less tangible by nature, stress or depression can (somewhat paradoxically) actually originate in the work provider itself, and thus be tacitly supported during the execution of work activities. When broken down by gender, there was a greater tendency for women to miss work for psychological disturbances than men.

Table 3. Employed people suffering from a work-related health problems due to main working activity during the last 12 months by degree of limitation in daily activities due to the most serious work-related complaint and time off from work due to the most serious work-related complaint – 2007, second quarter

 

Workers suffering from health problems ( %)

Workers suffering from stress ( %)

Men

Women

Total

Men

Women

Total

 

Total

100.0

100.0

100.0

100.0

100.0

100.0

Limitation to carry out normal day to day activity

Yes, considerably

5.2

7.1

6.0

4.8

6.0

5.3

Yes, to some extent

59.3

58.0

58.7

56.7

55.1

55.9

No

35.5

34.9

35.3

38.6

38.9

38.7

Time off from work

No time off

55.3

56.2

55.6

69.6

64.5

67.3

From one to three days

7.9

8.4

8.1

7.2

6.8

7.0

From 4 days to less than 2 weeks

16.4

16.0

16.2

10.6

13.8

12.1

From 2weeks to less than 1 month

9.0

9.5

9.2

5.1

6.9

5.9

From 1 month to less than 3 months

7.9

7.1

7.6

5.0

5.1

5.0

3 months and more

3.1

2.7

2.9

2.5

2.4

2.5

Expects never to work again due to this illness

0.5

0.1

0.4

0.0

0.5

0.2

17Excessive work load, domineering attitudes, harassment and discrimination, and threats and physical violence as risk factors for psychological well-being

  • 2 This category also includes time pressure, i.e., the carrying out of work tasks with under conditio (...)

18A total of 4,58 million (17.4 %) job-holders reported being exposed to risk factors for psychological health during their work activity. The perception of psychological risk is roughly equivalent for the two genders, though slightly greater for men (Table 4). The Center of Italy registers higher exposure levels in territorial terms, and the more central age classes report the highest levels of these phenomena. Among the various risk factors that were considered, excessive work load2 is the most frequent modality, being applicable to 14.5 % of the job-holders. This modality is more common for men than women, and most prevalent in the central part of the country, where the phenomenon affects nearly 20 % of the job-holders in Lazio. Domineering attitudes and discrimination (4.6 %) have a greater impact on women (5.4 %, as compared to 4.1 % for men). While the percentage seems low, it should be kept in mind this proportion reflects about one million people. The number of workers subject to work environments that present a systematic risk of physical harm is 381,000 individuals, which is equal to 1.6 % of all job-holders.

19With respect to the exposure to risk factors related to psychological health, overall Italian levels (17.4 %) fall well below the Union-27 average of 27.9 % [TNO, 2009]. If one considers the percentage distribution of the three factors examined here, i.e. excessive work load ; domineering attitudes, harassment and discrimination ; and threats and physical violence, one notes that Italy's percentage of domineering attitudes and discrimination is noticeably higher than the European Union average (Figure 2).

Figure 2. Employed people reporting exposure to factors affecting mental well-being – 2007, second quarter

Figure 2. Employed people reporting exposure to factors affecting mental well-being – 2007, second quarter

Table 4. Employed people exposed to risk factors that can adversely affect mental well-being by typology of factor, sex, geographical area and age - 2007, second quarter

Table 4. Employed people exposed to risk factors that can adversely affect mental well-being by typology of factor, sex, geographical area and age - 2007, second quarter

20Managers are by far the most highly affected occupation for each of the different risk factors that were taken into consideration (Table 5). What stands out in this category is that women are always subjected to higher pressure than men. In the context of harassment and discrimination, the perceived levels for clerks approach the same levels registered for managers, but the position with the very highest levels is that of temporary freelance contract workers, at 6.6 %. The relative weakness of temporary freelance contracts appears to expose such workers to more explosive outbursts, abuses of power, domineering attitudes and malfeasance on a daily basis, all of which can be summed up by the word mobbing.

Table 5. Employed people exposed to risk factors that can adversely affect mental well-being by typology of factor, sex, professional status and economic activity - 2007, second quarter

Table 5. Employed people exposed to risk factors that can adversely affect mental well-being by typology of factor, sex, professional status and economic activity - 2007, second quarter

21Permanent contract workers exhibit higher sensitivity to risk factors for psychological health in general, but distinctions need to be made through the separate analysis of each individual factor. The excessive work load problem is more prominent among autonomous workers than among employees, whereas (as suggested above) temporary freelance contracts register the highest exposure to domineering attitudes and discrimination in the workplace. Personnel involved in public safety work represent the permanent contract workers that register the highest exposure to physical threats and violence. Employees with fixed-term contracts (and when the contract is related to training) exhibit lower levels of perceived psychological risks. As a rule, this latter group concerns younger workers who have typically been recruited through apprenticeship contracts ; it is often their first real job, and as a consequence they tend to be much more willing to put up with whatever heavy work loads are asked of them. In reality, however, it is often the work providers themselves who refrain from assigning overly burdensome loads in order to allow these young workers more time to develop their experience and professionalism. Additionally, the capacity of these youths to judge attitudes to be domineering may also be limited due to their limited experience with the working world. For workers with regular fixed-term contracts, another potential issue could be the constant, pressing uncertainty of their own contractual future, a factor which could significantly raise their threshold of perception in regard to the real risks presented by their work. When the foremost preoccupation is simply to keep from losing the job, certain degrees of insensitivity tend to develop in regard to workplace safety.

22Excessive work load is the most meaningful factor overall in terms of occupational exposure, once again exhibiting a noteworthy correlation with the depressive diseases phenomenon (56.4 % of stress victims feel overexposed to heavy work loads). When the field of observation is limited to victims of stress, the other factors (which are more limited in the job-holder population) become considerably more significant. Nearly 30 % of these individuals are subject to domineering attitudes and discrimination, while 10.5 % report situations of outright violence - a demonstration of how workplace environments characterized by health-related risk elements often transform latent problems into real ones.

Association between risk factors in the work environment and health problems

23To help clarify our thoughts on how risk factors affect the psychological health of workers, we used multivariate analysis to combine risk factors with work characteristics and demographic background in order to generate a profile for people reporting work-related stress. We applied a linear logistical model to the portion of the sample that was working at the time of the survey, which amounted to approximately 62,000 people. The dependent variable of the model is the presence or absence of work stress among the job-holders. The explanatory variables used in the model include :

24Demographic characteristics :

  • Sex (Male, Female) ;

  • Age (15-24, 25-34, 35-44, 45-54, 55-64, 65 and more) ;

  • Geographic Area (North, Centre, South) ;

  • Educational level (low, intermediate, high).

25Features of work activity :

  • Professional status (manager/executive, clerk, worker, other typologies of employee, entrepreneur/professional, self employed, other typology of independent worker, temporary freelance contracts)

  • Economic activity (agriculture, energy, manufacturing, construction, commerce, hotel, transport, financial intermediation, company services, public administration, education, health , other services) ;

  • Working Time (full-time, part-time) ;

    • 3 Job-holders who worked evenings or nights within 4 weeks prior to the interview were categorized ac (...)

    Evening and night work (very often, often, sometimes, rarely, never) 3;

  • Saturday work (often, sometimes, never)

  • Sunday work (often, sometimes, never)

  • Shift work (yes, no)

26Exposure to risks factor that can adversely affect mental well-being :

  • Exposure to time pressure or overload of work (yes, no)

  • Exposure to bullying, harassment or discrimination (yes, no)

  • Exposure to violence or threat of violence (yes, no)

27Results of the logistic regression are presented in Table 6. It is to note that most associations are significant (at p<0.05) as a result of the large sample size.

28As witnessed in the descriptive analysis, work stress is associated with high levels of exposure to psychological risk factors. People exposed to heavy work loads or time pressure while working tends to suffer a higher incidence of stress exposure to the other two risk factors is also associated with greater odds of reporting work-related stress although the effect size are smaller. However it is worth noting that people who suffer from a work-related health problem have greater sensitivity to detect the presence of risk factor that can adversely their health condition and might tend to identify these as the reason of their disease.

Table 6. Results of logistic models reporting associations between reporting work-related stress and individuals’ socioeconomic characteristics and risk factors in the work environment (n = 61,922 workers)

Table 6. Results of logistic models reporting associations between reporting work-related stress and individuals’ socioeconomic characteristics and risk factors in the work environment (n = 61,922 workers)

29Findings also show that the odds of reporting work-related stress is lower among men, and more likely in central and northern Italy, and among job-holders of middle age classes ; work-related stress is not significantly associated with different levels of education. The model, therefore, provides support to the descriptive analysis described in the section on work stress, above. This tendency even holds true for characteristics of the work activity itself, clearly demonstrating the high correlation of stress with responsible work positions (managers, entrepreneurs and free-lance professionals). It is less evident, however, for purely manual jobs for which risks to physical well-being are much more common. In terms of sectors, workers in the energy, education, business services and commerce sectors show the greatest propensity to develop states of anxiety. In addition, the distribution of the model's odds ratios confirms a high correlation between stress and work that is carried out during unsocial hours (i.e. evening and night work). However, these results have to be interpreted with caution because of possible self-reporting bias ; people who report more risk factors in their work environment are also more likely to report work-related stress.

Conclusion

30The findings discussed to this point refer to an Italian labor market that is characterized by significant problems in terms of the psychological health of its workers. While these findings agree with surveys conducted in other European Union, they offer little consolation. Data from the administrative registers of reported health problems systematically underestimate the extent of the phenomenon, and the application of an ad hoc module to a large representative sample of the entire Italian population has revealed stress to be an important problem. In their workplace, nearly one in five job-holder is being exposed to stress that put their mental health at risk over extended periods of time. This is in part demonstrated by the high correlation between individuals who are exposed to risk factors and individuals who actually develop stress-related health problems. Instead health care intervention, the most effective intervention strategy might be to put more emphasis on alleviating the most probable causes, the “stressogenic” factors.

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Notes

1 The number of job-holders who reported suffering from health problems that were caused by or aggravated by their work activity is 1,707 million. Out of this population, 1, 643 million (over 96%) reported that their health problem was connected to their current primary activity, and this is the contingent that the current study places a special focus on.

2 This category also includes time pressure, i.e., the carrying out of work tasks with under conditions of particular urgency as a result of impending deadlines.

3 Job-holders who worked evenings or nights within 4 weeks prior to the interview were categorized according to the following scale: Very often work both evenings (8 p.m.-11 p.m.) and nights (after 11 p.m.) 2 or more times per week; Often work evenings 2 or more times per week but worked nights less than 2 times per week, or vice versa; Sometimes work evenings and nights less than two times per week Rarely work either evenings or nights less than two times per week; Never do not work during these hours.

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Table des illustrations

Titre Figure 1. Italy : Provinces and geographical area (North, Centre, South)
URL http://eps.revues.org/docannexe/image/4361/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 136k
Titre Figure 2. Employed people reporting exposure to factors affecting mental well-being – 2007, second quarter
URL http://eps.revues.org/docannexe/image/4361/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 284k
Titre Table 4. Employed people exposed to risk factors that can adversely affect mental well-being by typology of factor, sex, geographical area and age - 2007, second quarter
URL http://eps.revues.org/docannexe/image/4361/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 272k
Titre Table 5. Employed people exposed to risk factors that can adversely affect mental well-being by typology of factor, sex, professional status and economic activity - 2007, second quarter
URL http://eps.revues.org/docannexe/image/4361/img-4.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 420k
Titre Table 6. Results of logistic models reporting associations between reporting work-related stress and individuals’ socioeconomic characteristics and risk factors in the work environment (n = 61,922 workers)
URL http://eps.revues.org/docannexe/image/4361/img-5.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 521k
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Pour citer cet article

Référence papier

Carlo Lucarelli et Barbara Boschetto, « Psychological Health Risks for Workers in Italy  », Espace populations sociétés, 2011/1 | 2011, 97-110.

Référence électronique

Carlo Lucarelli et Barbara Boschetto, « Psychological Health Risks for Workers in Italy  », Espace populations sociétés [En ligne], 2011/1 | 2011, mis en ligne le 01 mars 2013, consulté le 17 août 2017. URL : http://eps.revues.org/4361 ; DOI : 10.4000/eps.4361

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Auteurs

Carlo Lucarelli

Barbara Boschetto

Italian National Statistical Institute
Labour Force Survey Office
Via Cesare Balbo 4
00184 Roma
Italie
carlo.lucarelli@istat.it
barbara.boschetto@istat.it

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Licence Creative Commons
Espace Populations Sociétés est mis à disposition selon les termes de la licence Creative Commons Attribution - Pas d'Utilisation Commerciale - Pas de Modification 4.0 International.

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