Helping people sort it out: the role of social support in the Job Strain Model

Ben Searle*, Jim E. Bright, Stephen Bochner

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Citations (Scopus)


This paper reports three studies of occupational stress investigating the role of social support as an intervening variable in the Job Strain Model (Karasek, 1979). A computer simulated mail-sorting work environment was used to assess the effect of demands, control and social support on measures of strain, satisfaction, and perceived and actual task performance. The first experiment ( N =60) tests the basic Job Strain Model by manipulating levels of task demand and control. The second experiment ( N =120) compares high and low levels of two types of social support (informational support and emotional support) to determine whether and how they interact with extreme conditions of the Job Strain Model (high strain and low strain). The final experiment ( N =90) investigates positive and negative forms of social support (praise and criticism) in relation to extreme job strain conditions. Results show that the job strain model is consistent with the stress and performance data, although stress showed no Demand 2 Control interaction. Social supports increased arousal, satisfaction and perceived performance, but did not affect stress or task performance. Moreover, contrary to buffer theories, social supports did not interact with the job strain variables. Congruence between preferred and experienced emotional support levels also predicted performance.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)328-346
Number of pages19
JournalWork and Stress
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes


  • job strain
  • social support
  • stress
  • performance


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