Associations between overcommitment, effort–reward imbalance and mental health: findings from a longitudinal study

  • Dorothea Margarete HinschEmail author
  • Katja Spanier
  • Friedrich Michael Radoschewski
  • Matthias Bethge
Original Article



The effort–reward imbalance (ERI) model includes extrinsic and intrinsic aspects of work stress. The single components, ERI and overcommitment (OC), are known to be associated with mental health. The aim of this study was to test whether OC is a mediator of the association between ERI and mental health.


Longitudinal analyses were conducted using data from the Third German Sociomedical Panel of Employees on German employees aged 40–54 years. The short version of the ERI questionnaire was used to measure ERI and OC at baseline (2013). Outcomes were mental health problems and self-rated mental health (5-Item Mental Health Inventory) in 2015. Multivariate regressions were conducted controlling for sociodemographics, health-related behaviour, job-related aspects, and mental health at baseline.


A total of 912 men and 1148 women were included in the final analysis. Baseline OC was positively associated with follow-up mental health problems and negatively with self-rated follow-up mental health. While there was no direct effect of ERI on mental health, ERI affected mental health problems (b = 0.14; 95% CI 0.03 to 0.25) and self-rated mental health (b = − 1.15; 95% CI − 1.79 to − 0.57) indirectly through OC.


OC was associated with reduced mental health. There was no association between ERI and mental health that was independent of OC. OC could therefore be interpreted as a mediator between ERI and mental health. Future studies are needed to test the causality of this association.


Psychosocial work stress ERI model Mediation effect Mental health problems 



Bias-corrected bootstrap confidence interval


Body mass index


Effort–reward imbalance


Effort–reward ratio


Third German Sociomedical Panel of Employees




36-item Short Form Health Survey



This research was funded by the Federal German Pension Insurance Agency. The funders were not involved in the study design, the collection, analysis and interpretation of the data, the writing of the report, nor the decision to submit the paper for publication.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

The study was approved by the ethics committee at Hannover Medical School (1730–2013) and the data protection commissioner of the German Pension Insurance Agency. All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. This article does not contain any studies with animals performed by any of the authors.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Social Medicine and EpidemiologyUniversity of LübeckLübeckGermany
  2. 2.Institute of Medical Sociology and Rehabilitation ScienceCharite Universitätsmedizin BerlinBerlinGermany

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