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Objectives. This study investigated the relationships between job characteristics and coping in predicting levels of anxiety and depression in nurses. The study was based on current theories of occupational stress, and predictors included job demands, social support, decision authority and skill discretion control, effort, over-commitment, rewards, and ways of coping. It was predicted that job demands, extrinsic effort, over-commitment, and negative coping behaviours would be positively associated with depression and anxiety, and social support, rewards, decision authority, skill discretion control, and positive coping would be negatively associated with depression and anxiety.

Methods. Participants were 870 nurses, who responded to a bulk mail sent randomly to 4,000 nurses from the south of England.

Results. The results showed that job demands, extrinsic effort, and over-commitment were associated with higher levels of anxiety and depression. Social support, rewards, and skill discretion were negatively associated with mental health problems. Few interactions were found between the variables. Coping behaviours significantly added to the explanation of variance in anxiety and depression outcomes, over and above the use of demand–control–support, and effort–reward factors alone.

Conclusion. The results from the study demonstrated the importance of coping factors in work-stress research, in accordance with the multi-factorial premise of transactional stress models. It is argued that multi-factor research is needed to help develop effective organizational interventions.