Topic: Disasters, terror and stress management

Effort-reward imbalance and post-traumatic stress after a workplace terror attack

Hem, C., Nielsen, M. B., Hansen, M., & Heir, T. (2016). Effort-reward imbalance and post-traumatic stress after a workplace terror attack. Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness, 10(2), 219-224. doi:10.1017/dmp.2015.158

In this article the association between extra effort, perceived reward, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is discussed. Data is collected from employees after a terrorist attack directed at the workplace.

Objective: Following adverse work conditions, health consequences can be explained by an imbalance between the effort made and the reward received. We investigated the association between extra effort, perceived reward, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The Effort-Reward Imbalance Model was used to examine whether extra effort at work in the aftermath of a workplace-related terrorist attack affected the risk of PTSD and the effects of reward for extra effort from a leader or colleagues.

Methods: Cross-sectional data were collected 10 months after a terrorist attack in Norway in 2011. Out of 3520 Ministry employees invited, 1927 agreed to participate. Employees reported any extra effort performed as a result of the bomb explosion and any reward received from a leader or colleagues. PTSD was assessed with the PTSD Checklist.

Results: Employees who reported extra effort displayed increased risk for PTSD (odds ratio [OR]=1.71, 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.15-2.55, P=0.008). Perceived reward for extra effort from a leader was associated with lower risk for PTSD (OR=0.39, 95% CI: 0.23-0.64, P<0.001) but not perceived reward from colleagues.

Conclusions: Extra effort may increase the risk of PTSD, but reward from a leader may mitigate this effect. The Effort-Reward Imbalance Model appears to be an appropriate approach that may contribute to understanding of the etiology of work-related PTSD.

The Researchers

  • Heir, Trond

    Heir, Trond

    Researcher/ Professor University of Oslo / dr. scient.

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