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Vol. 88, Iss. 5, July 2015

Office workers with high effort–reward imbalance and overcommitment have greater decreases in heart rate variability over a 2-h working period


Purpose High levels of workplace psychosocial factors have been associated with adverse cardiovascular outcomes, possibly through the pathway of increasing autonomic arousal. The purpose of this study was to investigate whether the workplace psychosocial factors of effort–reward imbalance (ERI) and overcommitment were associated with greater decreases in heart rate variability (HRV) across a 2-h working period in a cohort of office workers performing their own work at their own workplaces.

Methods Measurements of HRV in 5-min time epochs across a 2-h morning or afternoon working period, as well as self-reports of ERI and overcommitment, were collected for 91 office workers.

Results There was a negative and significant (p < 0.01) ERI*time interaction for the standard deviation of the interval between normal heart beats (SDNN), the square root of the mean squared differences of successive normal heart beats (RMSSD), and the power in the high-frequency range of the heart rate signal (HF power), and a positive and significant ERI*time interaction for the ratio of power in the low-frequency range of the heart rate signal divided by the HF power (LF/HF ratio). There was a positive and significant overcommitment*time interaction for the LF/HF ratio (p < 0.01) in the morning, and a negative and significant overcommitment*time interaction for SDNN, RMSSD, and HF power (p < 0.01) in the afternoon.

Conclusions The results indicate that participants exposed to high levels of ERI and overcommitment exhibited a more adverse cardiovascular response (a greater decrease in HRV throughout the 2-h measurement period) compared to their colleagues with lower levels of these factors.


Autonomic control, heart rate variability, Psychosocial Stress, workplace

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