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Work is the means by which most human beings provide for their daily sustenance. Although many theorists suggest that work occupies a central place in human life, more recently some have questioned the centrality of work, arguing that we are now in a postindustrial, consumer-oriented society where consumption has replaced work as a source of health and disease in our societies.1,2
Nevertheless, even in wealthy countries most adults still spend most of their waking hours engaged in work. People work in or out of their homes, with or without labour contracts, and in safe or hazardous working conditions. These and other features of work organisation have a great effect on workers’ health.3 Furthermore, work exists in a historical context, deeply influenced by several institutions and social relationships.
Concepts used in the epidemiology of work organisation have been drawn from diverse disciplines, as researchers have pragmatically adapted concepts from adjacent disciplines such as sociology or psychology.
Although this pragmatic approach has produced a strong body of empirical evidence, it has left us with concepts that are nearly impossible to integrate into a broad theoretical framework. Therefore, this glossary does not exist within any overarching theoretical framework. Instead, we have chosen to split the content into three parts, according to each term’s origin in the social sciences. Terms appear under one of three headings: Social Psychology, the Sociology of Work and Organisations and the Sociology of Labour Markets.
Our criteria for selecting and including terms in the glossary include both objective and subjective components. Substantial effort has been devoted to refining terms that are often used in Medline references but which, nonetheless, remain ambiguous or undefined (see terms under Social Psychology). We have also tackled areas in need of conceptual clarity (see terms under the Sociology of Work and …
Competing interests: None declared.
Funding: Study partly funded by Red de Centros de Investigación de Epidemiología y Salud Pública