Country differences of psychosocial working conditions in Europe: the role of health and safety management practices

  • Thorsten LunauEmail author
  • Nico Dragano
  • Johannes Siegrist
  • Morten Wahrendorf
Original Article



In times of demographic change, maintaining health and employability of older employees is important. In this context, studies show that stressful working conditions differ by countries. Yet, it is unclear if specific national management practices to deal with these conditions contribute towards explaining country differences.


This study combines two different data sources. The first one provides detailed information on psychosocial working conditions in 17 European countries, based on 12,284 employees from the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE) and the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA). We link this information to the second data source that provides information on health and safety management practices in each of the countries under study (collected among 17,477 managers at the level of companies in the Enterprise survey on new and emerging risks (ESENER)). We distinguish six different types of risk management procedures in the analysis.


Results show that levels of psychosocial risks are generally lower in countries with more developed management practices, in particular if national management practices are marked by (1) procedures to deal with work stress, (2) information about whom to address in case of work-related psychosocial problems, and (3) health and safety services provided by psychologists.


The findings underline the importance of a comprehensive psychosocial risk management approach in reducing work-related stress, as lower levels of psychosocial risks are linked to specific psychosocial risk management practices within companies, in particular those pointing to clear responsibilities and coordinated procedures in dealing with psychosocial risks.


Effort-reward imbalance Low control Psychosocial risk management procedures Occupational safety and health Cross-national study 



This paper uses data from SHARE wave 4 release 1.1.1, as of March 28th 2013 (doi: 10.6103/SHARE.w4.111). The SHARE data collection has been primarily funded by the European Commission through the 5th Framework Programme (Project QLK6-CT-2001-00360 in the thematic programme Quality of Life), through the 6th Framework Programme (Projects SHAREI3, RII-CT-2006-062193, COMPARE, CIT5- CT-2005-028857, and SHARELIFE, CIT4-CT-2006-028812) and through the 7th Framework Programme (SHARE-PREP, N° 211909, SHARE-LEAP, N° 227822 and SHARE M4, N° 261982). Additional funding from the U.S. National Institute on Aging (U01 AG09740-13S2, P01 AG005842, P01 AG08291, P30 AG12815, R21 AG025169, Y1-AG-4553-01, IAG BSR06-11 and OGHA 04–064) and the German Ministry of Education and Research as well as from various national sources is gratefully acknowledged (see for a full list of funding institutions). Data from ELSA were made available through the UK Data Archive (UKDA). ELSA was developed by a team of researchers based at the National Centre for Social Research, University College London and the Institute for Fiscal Studies. The data were collected by the National Centre for Social Research. The funding is provided by the National Institute of Aging in the United States, and a consortium of UK government departments coordinated by the Office for National Statistics. The developers and funders of ELSA and the Archive do not bear any responsibility for the analyses or interpretations presented here.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thorsten Lunau
    • 1
    Email author
  • Nico Dragano
    • 1
  • Johannes Siegrist
    • 2
  • Morten Wahrendorf
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of Medical Sociology, Centre for Health and Society, Medical FacultyUniversity of DüsseldorfDüsseldorfGermany
  2. 2.Work Stress ResearchMedical Faculty, University of DüsseldorfDüsseldorfGermany

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