Jan Häusser, Andreas Mojzisch and Stefan Schulz-Hardt

Endocrinological and psychological responses to job stressors: An experimental test of the job demand-control model


Experimentally tested the buffer hypothesis of the job demand-control model, which maintains that high levels of job control may compensate for the negative effects of high job demands on well-being and health. 77 adults (mean age 22 years) worked at a simulated computer workplace for over 2 hours. Job demands (high or low) and job control (high or low) were manipulated in terms of workload and pacing, respectively. Subjective well-being (using German versions of the Interest/Enjoyment subscale of the Intrinsic Motivation Inventory, IMI, and Positive and Negative Affect Scale, PANAS) and salivary cortisol were measured at 7 points during experimentation (T1-T7), and task performance was assessed at the end of the task. Results showed a significantly higher cortisol response at T3-T7 in participants with high job demand and low control as compared to all other conditions. Furthermore, higher demands led to a higher cortisol response at T3-T7 when control was low, whereas no increase in cortisol response was observed when control was high. However, no main or interaction effects of job control and psychological responses were found. Possible explanations for the discrepancy between endocrinological and psychological reactions as well as theoretical and practical implications are discussed. It is concluded that the negative influence of high job demands on cortisol stress reactions may be buffered by job control.