Stressors and Strains amongst Social Workers : Demands, Supports, Constraints, and Psychological Health
This article describes an empirical study of the work stressors and psychological strains experienced by social workers in Hertfordshire. A questionnaire, based on Payne's (1979) model of occupational stress, investigated the perceived Demands, Supports, and Constraints of the work, including threats and violence in addition to more subjective perceptions of pressure. The research aimed to establish the extent and nature of stress amongst social workers and to pinpoint the specific features of the work which are associated with particularly poor levels of psychological health. It also aimed to suggest possible courses of action to alleviate excessive pressure. The research showed that while the social workers found their job satisfying, they perceived the work as very pressured and felt that the pressure adversely affected the service they provided. The psychological health measures indicated that levels of general anxiety were particularly high. The most highly stressed workers perceived their jobs as more demanding and less supportive and estimated that they took twice as much sick leave. Certain specific demands and supports were shown to be important in predicting psychological health. Various recommendations are made aimed at alleviating strain by reducing demands and constraints and increasing supports.