Augustine Ebiai

Department of Psychology, Covenant University, Ota

E-mail: aebiai


The paper set out to explore the causes of occupational stress, and its effect on organisational performance, and to assess the differences in some particular type of jobs. Adopting the survey research method, it came to the conclusion that there is a relationship between occupational stress and health and occupational stress and job satisfaction. It also found that occupational stress and ill health play a significant role in making workers in an organisation to be dissatisfied with their work.


Keywords: Occupational, stress, sressors, performance



Occupational stress has become one of the major influences on the health, daily living and well-being of industrial and organizational workers. Work is an essential part of our lives and there are people who find real satisfaction in their work.


 Numerous studies have explored the causes of occupational stress (Lindon, 2000; Egwunyenga and Egbule, 2002). Though family conflict can affect job characteristics (Butler, Gizywacs; Bass, Linney, 2005; Ezeilo, Uzoka, 1995)). Nonetheless, it is a long accepted fact that the workplace is a major source of socio-psychological stressors such as aggression or hostility (Forshaw, 2002), strains (Slaven, 2002; Bridger Kilminster and Slaven, 2007) and subsequently ill health (Norton 2000; Sternberg, 2000; Stansfeld, Head and Marmot; 2000). All stressors, whether psychological (e.g. dismay at the loss of one’s job) or physical (e.g. long term exposure or cold) produce a similar core pattern of physiological changes. However, it is chronic psychological stress (e.g. in the form of chronic fear) that has been most frequently implicated in ill health (Kiecolt-Galsser, McGuirre, Robbies, Glasser; 2000. Krantz and McCeney, 2002; Natelson 2004) or in the form of release of glucocorticoide from the adrenal cortex thereby producing effects of stress responses (Erickson, Drevets and Schulkin, 2003, Korte 2001).


The level of circulating glucorcociodes propounded by Selye (1956) is most commonly adopted as a physiological measure of stress  . The immune system however acts as barriers to stress. (Matzinger, 2002; Medzhitov and Janeway, 2002; Bancheream, 2002). Nonetheless stress skill has some effect on the immune function (Seggerstrom and Miller, 2004) thereby endangering performance especially amongst Nigerian workers. (Egwunyenga and Egbule, 2002; Omoluabi, 1995; Ebiai, 2003; 2006; Uzoka, 1995; Nweze, 1984; Ezeilo, 1995; Ifegwazi, 2006).


Statement of problem

Occupational demands can be highly stressful and many jobs make severe demands in terms of responsibility, time, and performance (Nweze, 1995; Wright, 2008). Studies have shown that some occupation such as the military, (Limbert, 2004) air flight crew (Cho, Ennaceur, Cole and Suh, 2000) apparently place the individual widen and unusually high degree of stress which result in vulnerability to heart disease. Most other studies on occupational stress and work have focused attention on white-collar jobs, (Cooper French and Caplan, 1972). The police (Collins & Gibbs, 2003; Nweze 1984) others have focused on entrepreneurial culture and stress causing substantial personal cost to many individuals (Cooper and Cartwright, 1994) and loss of ones job (Pinel, 2007). Many other studies have shown that major emergencies in industrial environment such as fire disaster (McLead, 2000) has contribution to stress and dissatisfaction. In Nigerian, studies have shown that explosions, oil spills, accidents and bomb attack can also contribute to stress (Ogundele 2004; Ogunsola and Ogundele, 2001) Health professionals e.g. Physicians, dentists, nurses and health technologists) have been found to have higher than expected rates of suicide (Guralinick, 1963).

While this various approaches maybe useful and significant, however, studies on stress in Nigeria have failed to look at differences of stress level among industrial-Organisation workers in different occupations. Researches in United States and Europe have focused on occupational linked stressors especially people working in the emergency services such as police, fire, ambulance, emergency medical team and mountain rescue, Gross (2005). For example, McLeod (2000) studied over 800 firefighters, giving them a number of standard measures of stress and coping. They found that individual’s roles experience varying patterns of stress, and cope in different ways, for example, the highest overall stress levels were found among the day duty firefighters who live close to the station and are frequently on call. In Nigeria, certain workplaces have no respect for mental health and even when they try to assist, the cost to employees in the industry is high which affects low income earners. Noise in the Nigeria workplace especially in big cities like Lagos, Kano, Kaduna, Abuja, Enugu, Ibadan,  and Warri affects, and accumulates into stress. Again, traffic in these cities, dirts on the highways, and sometimes encounters with Road Safety Officials, Policemen, and traffic wardens affects the mental health of workers.


Attitude towards workplace stress

The United States National Health Interview Survey showed that 75% of the general population reported experiencing at least some stress in two weeks preceding the survey. About one half of the respondents reported “a lot” or moderate amount of stress during the period of the survey (Silverman, Eichler and Williams, 1987).  Researchers in Sweden showed that workers viewed their work as often “stressful” or reported moderate to high levels of stress at work. In a nationwide Canadian study (Canadian Mental Health Association, 1984), 60% of the workers studies reported they had experienced “negative Stress” at work within the previous year and 35% reported adverse psychological effects. Only 11% reported adverse physical effects. Jones, Huxtable, Hodgson, and Price (2003) studies, reported that half a million people in the U.K believe they are suffering from work related stress, depression of anxiety.  The authors also reported that 13.4 million working days were lost in the UK due to stress, depression and anxiety. Smith, Wadsworth and Johal (2000) estimated that five million people in the UK feel “very” or “extremely” stressed by their work.



Stress, occupational stress, job satisfaction and other related terms         

Stress: Caubridge (2002) defines stress as great worry caused by difficult situation or something that causes the situation. Stress is defined as a non-specific response of the body to any demand made upon it, which results in symptoms such as rise in the blood pressure, release of hormones, quickness of breath, tightening of muscles, perspiration and increased cardiac activity.  Allen (2002) notes that one cannot eliminate challenging circumstances in life and work, what can be improved upon is one deals with them and how much stress one willing to allow and endure. Stress is not necessarily negative. Some stress keeps us motivated and alert, while too little stress can create problems. However, too much stress can trigger problems with mental and physical health, particularly over a prolonged period of time.


Fear is a special kind of stress experienced before or during an event that causes the same change in a person’s physiology. Anxiety is the fear of something which has not happened yet or which may never happen. Occupational stress can be defined as the harmful and emotional response that occurs when the requirements of the job do not match the capabilities, resources, or needs of the workers. Job stress can lead to poor health and even injury. Long-term exposure to occupational stress has been linked to an increased risk of ‘musculoskeletal disorder’, “depression and job” “burnout and may contribute to a range of debilitating disease-ranging from “cardiovascular disease” to “cancer stressful” working conditions may also interfere with an employee’s ability to work safely, contributing to work injuries and illnesses. In the workplace of the 1990s, the most highly ranked and frequently reported organisational stressors are potential job loss technological advances and ineffective top management. At the work unit level, work overload, poor supervision and inadequate training are the top-ranking stressors.


Marzabardi and Tarkhorani (2007) defined job satisfaction as a pleasurable emotional state resulting from the appraisal of one’s job, an affective reaction to one’s job, and an attitude towards one’s job. Weiss (2002) has argued that job satisfaction is an attitude but points out that researchers should clearly distinguish the objects of cognitive evaluation, which affects (emotion) beliefs and behaviours. Job satisfaction is a judgement we make about how favourable our work environment is.


Research questions:

 Will there be any difference in terms amount of strains and stresses between one type of occupation and another type? Would there be a significant difference between organisation in terms of psycho physiologic disorder. Can there be any effect of occupational stress on the general health of worker in Nigerian workplace. Can there be any relationship between occupational stress and job satisfaction in Nigeria industrial organisation.



Hi        Workers in some occupations may significantly be more stressful than other.

Hi        There will be a significant difference between different organisation in psycho physiologic disorder.

Hi        There will be a significant relationship between occupational stress and the general health of workers in Nigeria workplace.

Hi        There will be a relationship between occupational stress and job satisfaction among Nigeria workers.



Theoretical framework

Coleman (1973) identified three basic forces; pressure; conflict and frustration as emotional stress processes. The present paper is leaning onto this model for the causes of occupational stress. Pressure comes with environmental demands especially with regard to time (Ogundele, 2006) high work load and perfectionism (Marzabadi and Tarkhorani, 2007) frustration such as low work control; low employee participation in decision making, boring and repetitive work, lack of training lack of meaningfulness or knowledge of how the individual contributes to the Organisation goals and then conflict stress such as depression and aggression, especially in union grievances and mistrust.


Conflict arises because of competing alternatives which require us to make the right choice and decisions. Frustration is imposed because of our inability to meet the objectives or achieve the goals. Under a stressful situation, conflict arises between the demands being made by our Industrial Organisation workplace and our individual ability as a worker to meet the challenge of work or no work, or conflict before us. It is this discrepancy that reacts to stressful feelings and subsequent responses to stress by the worker affected. This feeling usually must go through three processes. These are the psychological, physiological and behavioural. It is the psychological (feeling, judgement motivation, job dissatisfaction that informs the physiological (internal body reactions) which inturn informs the behavioural responses or action.





Participants are one hundred randomly selected organisational workers aged between 25 and 55 years. All participants are resident in southwest geo-political region of Nigeria and have been working in some academic institution, health institution, manufacturing industries, financial institutions and military and paramilitary organisation. All participants have been working in their various organisation 12 months before the research was conducted. The workers range within the ranks of junior workers, supervisors and senior ranks or management as the care maybe.



The Life Experience Survey (LES) was utilized. This test was adapted from Sarason (1978) who leaned onto Holmes and Rahe (1967) original Life Events Inventory (LEI). The tests have been found to predict stress very well (Sarason, 1978). A test and retest reliability was performed using 34 and 58 participants and the general coefficient of change was observed to be 0.63 and 0.64 using the Pearson product moment statistics of p = 0.001 (Sarason 1978)


The General Health Questionnaire (GHQ): The General Health Questionnaire was first developed by Goldberg (1972) as an instrument to compensate for what Goldberg conceived as the weakness of the Cornel Medical Index (CMI) as a diagnostic instrument to detect psychosomatic and psychiatric illness. According to Goldberg (1972), a score of twelve or more (12+) signifies ill health. The reliability of the instrument has been found to be 81.6% (i.e. 0.816) for the Western population (Goldberg, 1972) and 91.5% (i.e. 0.915) for African population (Morakinyo, 1979).

All stressors, whether psychological e.g. dismay at the loss of one’s job or physical (e.g. long term exposure or cold) produce a similar core pattern of physiological changes, however it is chronic psychological stress (e.g. in the form of chronic fear) that has been most frequently implicated in ill health (Kiecolt-Galsser, McGuirre, Robbies, Glasser, 2000; Krantz and McCeney, 2002; Natelson 2004) or in the form of release of glucocorticode from the adrenal cortex thereby producing effects of stress responses (Erickson, Drevets and Schulkin, 2003; Korte 2001). The level of circulating glucorcociodes is most commonly physiological measures of stress which Selye (1956). The immune system however acts as barriers to stress.  (Matzinger, 2002; Medzhitor and Janeway, 2002; Banchereau, 2002). Nonetheless stress skill has some effect on the immune function (Seggerstrom and Miller, 2004).


Job satisfaction questionnaire (JSQ): The Job Satisfaction Questionnaire (JSQ) was developed by the author. The Questions have been tested by McIntyre (1966), “Math Game” to test satisfaction of Industrial Workers. The Questions include How satisfied were you with your job to how productive do you feel, and what do you like about your job? And what did you dislike? The Questions in the JSQ were also rated in a Likert Scale from very dissatisfied which is rated (I) to very satisfied which is rated (7). On the productive side, the Likert measure was also used to rate productivity from very unproductive to very productive.



The first two psychometric instruments, the life events experience survey (LES) and the General Health Questionnaire (GHQ) were issued to the participants to complete simultaneously. The last test material is the job satisfaction was scored on a later date. Participants score on life experience survey (LES) was grouped into two. The total of the participants’ negative score and the total of participant positive score on life stress. The scores were recorded on the psychometric instrument of the particular participant involved. Participants score on the General Health Questionnaire (GHQ) was the addition of the participant score on the instrument.  The job satisfaction questionnaire was administered to the participants and was scored on the Likert System.

The scores were finally extracted based on the hypothesis to be tested.





On the hypothesis that some occupations may significantly be more stressful than occupation, the analysis of variance (ANOVA) was conducted. The following mean observations were noted.

Group I:                       Bank Workers                          : - 13.45

Group II:                      Police Officers             : - 35.15

Group III:                    Health Personnel                      : - 19.45

Group IV:                    Academic Person                     : - 20.75

Group V:                     Civil Servants                          : - 21.8

An analysis of variance performed on these means gave F(4,95) = (1.15065353), which is not significant at point 0.05 level.


Table 1: One-way ANOVA summary table for life experience stress among the five organisation.







Between Group





Within Group










Not significant at p 0.05.


On the hypothesis on relationship between organisation life invents experience stress and general health and on the third hypothesis on the occupation life invents experience stress and job satisfaction. The Pearson product moment correlation coefficient (r) was conducted and was statistically significant at 0.05.

The second hypothesis was tested to find out if there is a significant difference between the five organisations in terms of their psycho physiologic system. The following mean observations were noted.



Group I:                        Bank Workers             76.9

Group II:                      Police officers                        105.4

Group III:                    Health Personnel                     96.05

Group IV:                    Academic Person                    89.05

Group V:                     Civil Servants                         102.45

The ANOVA performed on these means gave F(4,95) = 2.70503523 which is significant at point 0.05 level.


Table 2           






Between Group





Within Group










The result is significant at P .01 and at P. 05.


Table 3

Occupational Life invent Stress

General Health

Job Satisfaction










The variables are all statistically significant at 0.05 one tail and 0.05 two tail test.



The present paper has come to the conclusion that there is a relationship between occupational stress and health and occupational stress and job satisfaction. It is pertinent to note that occupational stress and ill health plays a significant role in making workers in organisation to be dissatisfied with their work.



Government and private organisations management should endeavour to make the physical environment in organisation better for the workers for productivity. Relaxation centres should be built at strategic places so that workers can have their leisure time. The salaries of workers should be adequate. Organisational management should make the role of each worker clear to him so that there will be no role conflict. Management should endeavour to reduce workload and increase work load when there is need.




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