Article Text

Download PDFPDF
Organisational justice and cognitive function in middle-aged employees: the Whitehall II study
  1. Marko Elovainio1,2,
  2. Archana Singh-Manoux1,3,
  3. Jane E Ferrie1,
  4. Martin Shipley1,
  5. David Gimeno1,4,
  6. Roberto De Vogli1,
  7. Jussi Vahtera5,6,
  8. Marianna Virtanen1,5,
  9. Markus Jokela1,
  10. Michael G Marmot1,
  11. Mika Kivimäki1,5
  1. 1University College London, London, UK
  2. 2National Institute for Health and Welfare, Helsinki, Finland
  3. 3INSERM U697, AP-HP, Villejuif Cedex, France
  4. 4The University of Texas School of Public Health, Health Science Center at Houston, Division of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences, San Antonio, Texas, USA
  5. 5Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, Helsinki, Finland
  6. 6Department of Public Health, University of Turku and Turku University Hospital, Turku, Finland
  1. Correspondence to Dr Marko Elovainio, National Institute for Health and Welfare, PO Box 220, Fi-00370 Helsinki, Finland; marko.elovainio{at}


Background Little is known about the role that work-related factors play in the decline of cognitive function. This study examined the association between perceived organisational justice and cognitive function among middle-aged men and women.

Methods Perceived organisational justice was measured at phases 1 (1985–8) and 2 (1989–90) of the Whitehall II study when the participants were 35–55 years old. Assessment of cognitive function at the screening clinic at phases 5 (1997–9) and 7 (2003–4) included the following tests in the screening clinic: memory, inductive reasoning (Alice Heim 4), vocabulary (Mill Hill), and verbal fluency (phonemic and semantic). Mean exposure to lower organisational justice at phases 1 and 2 in relation to cognitive function at phases 5 and 7 were analysed using linear regression analyses. The final sample included 4531 men and women.

Results Lower mean levels of justice at phases 1 and 2 were associated with worse cognitive function in terms of memory, inductive reasoning, vocabulary and verbal fluency at both phases 5 and 7. These associations were independent of covariates, such as age, occupational grade, behavioural risks, depression, hypertension and job strain.

Conclusions This study suggests an association between perceived organisational justice and cognitive function. Further studies are needed to examine whether interventions designed to improve organisational justice would affect employees' cognition function favourably.

  • CHD
  • cognitive function
  • cognitive problems
  • epidemiology FQ
  • health behaviour
  • justice
  • memory
  • psychosocial factors
  • stress
  • workplace

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.


  • Funding The Whitehall II study has been supported by grants from the Medical Research Council, British Heart Foundation, Health and Safety Executive, Department of Health, National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (R01HL036310); US, NIH: National Institute on Ageing (R01AG013196; R01AG034454), US, NIH: Agency for Health Care Policy Research (HS06516). JEF is supported by the MRC (G8802774), MJS by a grant from the British Heart Foundation, MGM by an MRC fesearch professorship, MK by the Academy of Finland (projects 117604 and 132944) and BUPA Foundation, JV and MK by the Academy of Finland (projects 124271 and 129262), ME by the Academy of Finland (128002) and WEF (project 203533) and ASM by a EURYI award from the European Science Foundation.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent Obtained.

  • Ethics approval Ethics approval for the Whitehall II study was obtained from the University College London Medical School Committee on the Ethics of Human Research.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.