Occupational stress and mental health symptoms: Examining the moderating effect of work recovery strategies in firefighters

Gargi Sawhney, Kristen S. Jennings, Thomas W. Britt, Michael T. Sliter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations

Abstract

The goal of this research was to examine the moderating effect of work recovery strategies on the relationship between occupational stress experienced by firefighters and mental health symptoms. Work recovery strategies were identified through semistructured interviews with 20 firefighters and a literature search on recovery strategies. A total of 7 work recovery strategies emerged using the 2 methods: work-related talks, stress-related talks, time with coworkers/supervisor, exercise, recreational activities, relaxation, and mastery experiences. Using a prospective study design with a 1-month time interval in a sample of 268 firefighters, experienced occupational stress at Time 1 was positively related to mental health symptoms at Time 2. In addition, with the exception of spending time with coworkers/supervisor, exercise and mastery experiences, recovery strategies at Time 1 were negatively related to mental health symptoms at Time 2. Lastly, all work recovery strategies, except stress-related talks and relaxation, moderated the relationship between experienced occupational stress at Time 1 and mental health symptoms at Time 2. Specifically, the positive relationship between experienced occupational stress and mental health symptoms was stronger when firefighters engaged in low, rather than high, work recovery strategies. Implications for research and practice are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)443-456
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of occupational health psychology
Volume23
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was generously funded by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Research Center Pilot Project Grant Program. Portions of this research were presented at the 2015 Work, Stress and Health conference in Atlanta, GA. The current study has also been accepted at the 2017 Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology conference, which is to be held in Orlando, FL.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 American Psychological Association.

Keywords

  • Firefighters
  • High stress occupations
  • Mental health symptoms
  • Occupational stress
  • Work recovery strategies

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