In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Occupational Health Psychology

  • Introduction
  • Textbooks
  • Handbooks
  • OHP-Related Organizations and Internet Resources
  • OHP-Related Journals
  • History of OHP
  • The Origin of the Term Occupational Health Psychology
  • OHP-Related Models of Job Stress
  • Implications of Psychosocial Working Conditions for Mental Health
  • Implications of Psychosocial Working Conditions for Cardiovascular Disease, Stroke, and Mortality
  • Implications of Psychosocial Working Conditions for Musculoskeletal Disorders
  • Violence and Psychological Aggression in the Workplace
  • Occupational Safety
  • Work-Family Balance
  • Interventions

Psychology Occupational Health Psychology
Irvin Sam Schonfeld
  • LAST REVIEWED: 26 April 2018
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 April 2018
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199828340-0211


Occupational health psychology (OHP) is a cross-disciplinary subspecialty within psychology. OHP derives from two disciplines within applied psychology, health psychology and industrial/organizational psychology. OHP is also linked to disciplines outside of psychology, such as occupational medicine and public health. The discipline has roots in 18th-, 19th-, and 20th-century thinkers, including Adam Smith, Friedrich Engels, Karl Marx, Émile Durkheim, and Max Weber. These thinkers were concerned with the impact of the organization of work and the business cycle on human life. Later research by Elton Mayo, Marie Jahoda, Walter B. Cannon, Hans Selye, and investigators at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research, the Tavistock Institute in London, the Stress Research Laboratory (now the Stress Research Institute) in Stockholm, and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health laid a foundation for OHP before the term was coined. While health psychology has largely been concerned with influences outside the domain of work that affect health and health behaviors, OHP emerged as a discipline that is concerned with understanding the nature of the impact of psychosocial working conditions on the physical and mental health and well-being of workers and their families. Examples of psychosocial working conditions include: (a) how much decision latitude a worker has, (b) psychological workload, and (c) the extent to which there is an imbalance between a worker’s effort, on one hand, and the tangible and intangible rewards the worker gets from the job, on the other. Knowledge obtained from such research is used to develop interventions designed to protect and enhance the health of workers, while maintaining organizational productivity. OHP is also concerned with occupational safety and accident prevention, the impact of unemployment and job insecurity on mental and physical health, the prevention of violence and psychological aggression at the workplace, and identifying factors that enhance work-family balance. The author thanks Anita Sicignano and Silke Toplak for reading and commenting on an earlier version of this bibliography.


Given the newness of the field, there are not many textbooks devoted to OHP. At least two are currently available: Leka and Houdmont 2010 and Schonfeld and Chang 2017. Both books can be used in upper-level undergraduate classes and in graduate courses. Schonfeld and Chang 2017 comes with a separate set of essay questions that instructors can use in student tests and assignments.

  • Leka, S., and J. Houdmont, eds. 2010. Occupational health psychology. Chichester, UK: Wiley-Blackwell.

    The chapters are written by different scholars with expertise specific to each chapter’s subject area. The chapters address theories of workplace stress, risk management, corporate culture, workplace health promotion, the relation of the work organization to health, and positive psychology at work. A chapter is devoted to the future of OHP. The book also looks at burnout and its relation to work-related engagement.

  • Schonfeld, I. S., and C.-H. Chang. 2017. Occupational health psychology: Work, stress, and health. New York: Springer.

    The book examines theories of workplace stress; the impact of psychosocial working conditions on depression, alcohol use, anxiety, burnout, cardiovascular disease (CVD), stroke, and musculoskeletal problems; the impact of unemployment and job insecurity on depression, suicide, and CVD; work-related coping; workplace violence and psychological aggression; health-related organizational climate and leadership; safety and accidents; work-life balance; and workplace interventions. Specific occupations (e.g., nurses, teachers, soldiers, police officers) are also examined. The final chapter is devoted to the future of OHP.

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