Testing the 3-factor model of occupational stress

The impact of demands, control and social support on a mail sorting task

Ben J. Searle*, Jim E H Bright, Stephen Bochner

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

36 Citations (Scopus)


This study tests a 3-factor model of occupational stress, which predicts that job demands, job control and social support influence levels of strain. In a laboratory simulation of mail sorting, task demands, control and social supports were manipulated systematically. Pre- and post-task measures of self-reported stress and arousal were compared across groups. Performance was measured continuously during the computer task and all 120 participants reported their perceived performance afterwards. Stress was found to be higher and perceived performance was lower in conditions of high demand; this pattern was also observed in conditions of low social support. Contrary to the hypotheses put forward in this paper, task control did not affect stress and the manipulations did not interact to produce elevated stress. However, task performance was poorer in conditions of high demand and in conditions of low control, and there was a significant interaction between demand and control for performance. Work preference measures indicated that the level of fit between ideal and actual social support influenced stress and perceived performance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)268-279
Number of pages12
JournalWork and Stress
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jul 1999
Externally publishedYes


  • Computer simulation
  • Karasek
  • Performance
  • Stress

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