Health effects of psychosocial hazards

Mentally healthy workplaces: Resources for management

How can exposure to psychosocial hazards and risk factors affect mental health?

Both short and long-term exposure to psychosocial hazards at work can have a negative impact on mental health (e.g. anxiety, depression).

While exposure to severe, short-lived (acute) psychosocial hazards may result in mental ill health (e.g. acute-stress disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder), it is important to also recognise that the cumulative effect of low-level exposure to psychosocial hazards and factors can negatively affect mental health as much as a single, significantly stressful event.

Can psychosocial hazards affect physical health?

Exposure to psychosocial hazards and risk factors has been linked to long-term physical health issues, which can:

  • increase muscle tension and the load on the musculoskeletal system, leading to musculoskeletal disorders
  • affect biochemical pathways in our bodies releasing or suppressing hormones which may have an impact on aspects of physical health.

Can psychosocial hazards interact with each other?

Yes. Workers may be exposed to more than one type of psychosocial hazard or risk factor at any one time. Psychosocial hazards and risk factors interact with each other so they should not be considered in isolation. For example, the combined effect of high job demands, low control, and low support increases the likelihood and severity of a negative impact on a worker’s mental health status.