What is a psychosocial work environment?

“Epidemiology is a lot like detective work”

What is a psychosocial work environment?

by Reiner Rugulies

Article related to the NIVA course Psychosocial Occupational Epidemiology, 26th – 28th of November 2019 at Hotel Marienlyst, Helsingør, Denmark

The term “psychosocial work environment” appears frequently in research articles, including those published in the Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment and Health (1‒8). Recently, the first international handbook on the emerging field of “psychosocial epidemiology” extensively addressed the contribution of psychosocial working conditions to health and illness (9).

There is, however, also a controversial debate pertaining to the meaning of the word “psychosocial“ and whether it might enhance a focus on psychological phenomena and draw attention away from the work environment (10). Such concerns recently motivated the Swedish Work Environment Authority to remove the term psychosocial work environment when they published their new provision on the organizational and social work environment:

”A common term used for this work environment is psychosocial. This is a broad concept that basically refers to how the individual experiences and responds to his or her surroundings and thus the individual becomes the focus. Instead, we have chosen to highlight the organizational and social conditions and requirements at work because that is what the employer can control.” (11, p12). (Translated from Swedish by the author.)

In the following, I provide some comments on this debate. I will first address the historical use of the term psychosocial work environment and then present a conceptual framework showing the relation of the psychosocial work environment to phenomena on both the societal and individual level.

Read the full article and references here.

Originally brought in Scand J Work Environ Health. 2019;45(1):1‒6. doi:10.5271/sjweh.3792.


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