Background: There is an evidence that psychosocial factors at work influence risk of poor health in Western societies but little is known about the effect of work stress in the former communist countries. The aim of this paper is to compare the association of work stress with self-rated health in Western European and post-communist countries.
Methods: We used data from four epidemiological studies: the HAPIEE Study (Poland, Russia, and the Czech Republic), the Hungarian Epidemiological Panel (Hungary), the Heinz Nixdorf Recall Study (Germany) and the Whitehall II Study (United Kingdom). The overall sample consisted 18 494 male and female workers aged 35-65.
Results: High effort-reward imbalance at work was associated with poor self-rated health. The adjusted odds ratios for the highest vs. lowest quartile of the effort-reward ratio were 3.8 (95% CI 1.9-7.7) in Hungary, 3.6 (95% CI 2.3-5.7) in the Czech Republic, 2.5 (95% CI 1.5-4.1) in the UK, 2.3 (95% CI 1.6-3.5) in Germany, 1.5 (95% CI 1.0-2.1) in Poland and 1.4 (95% CI 1.1-1.8) in Russia. The differences in odds ratios between countries were statistically significant (p<0.05). A similar pattern was observed with regard to the effect of overcommitment on poor health.
Conclusion: The association of effort-reward imbalance at work and of a high degree of work-related overcommitment with poor self-rated health was seen in all countries but the size of the effects differed considerably. It does not appear that the effects in Eastern Europe are systematically stronger than in the West.