Open Access Open Badges Research article

Self-perceived stress reactivity is an indicator of psychosocial impairment at the workplace

Heribert Limm1, Peter Angerer2, Mechthild Heinmueller2*, Birgitt Marten-Mittag1, Urs M Nater3 and Harald Guendel4

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Psychosomatic Medicine and Psychotherapy, Technische Universitaet Muenchen (TUM), Langerstrasse 3/I, 81675 Munich, Germany

2 Department of Occupational, Social and Environmental Medicine, Ludwig-Maximilians-University, Ziemssenstr. 1, 80336 Munich, Germany

3 University of Zürich, Dept. of Psychology, Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy, Binzmuehlenstrasse 14/Box 26, 8050 Zuerich, Switzerland

4 Department of Psychosomatic Medicine and Psychotherapy, University Hospital of Ulm, Am Hochstraess 8, D-89081 Ulm, Germany

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BMC Public Health 2010, 10:252  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-10-252

Published: 14 May 2010



Work related stress is associated with a range of debilitating health outcomes. However, no unanimously accepted assessment tool exists for the early identification of individuals suffering from chronic job stress. The psychological concept of self-perceived stress reactivity refers to the individual disposition of a person to answer stressors with immediate as well as long lasting stress reactions, and it could be a valid indicator of current as well as prospective adverse health outcomes. The aim of this study was to determine the extent to which perceived stress reactivity correlates with various parameters of psychosocial health, cardiovascular risk factors, and parameters of chronic stress and job stress in a sample of middle-aged industrial employees in a so-called "sandwich-position".


In this cross-sectional study, a total of 174 industrial employees were assessed for psychosocial and biological stress parameters. Differences between groups with high and low stress reactivity were analysed. Logistic regression models were applied to identify which parameters allow to predict perceived high versus low stress reactivity.


In our sample various parameters of psychosocial stress like chronic stress and effort-reward imbalance were significantly increased in comparison to the normal population. Compared to employees with perceived low stress reactivity, those with perceived high stress reactivity showed poorer results in health-related complaints, depression, anxiety, sports behaviour, chronic stress, and effort-reward imbalance. The educational status of employees with perceived low stress reactivity is higher. Education, cardiovascular complaints, chronic stress, and effort-reward imbalance were moderate predictors for perceived stress reactivity. However, no relationship was found between stress reactivity and cardiovascular risk factors in our sample.


Job stress is a major burden in a relevant subgroup of industrial employees in a middle management position. Self-perceived stress reactivity seems to be an appropriate concept to identify employees who experience psychosocial stress and associated psychological problems at the workplace.