Racial Discrimination

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Occupational Medicine 2007;57:18–24
Published online 23 August 2006 doi:10.1093/occmed/kql088

Racial discrimination, ethnicity and work stress
Emma Wadsworth1, Kamaldeep Dhillon2, Christine Shaw1, Kamaldeep Bhui2, Stephen Stansfeld2 and Andrew Smith1
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Background Previous research has suggested higher work stress among minority ethnic workers. ...................................................................................................................................................................................

Aims

To determine levels of work stress in three ethnic groups, consider the contribution of racial discrimination to the groups’ profiles of occupational and demographic associations with stress, and assess the association between work stress and well-being.

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Methods

A household quota sample design was used, and 204 black African–Caribbean, 206 Bangladeshi and 216 white (UK born) working people took part in structured interviews.

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Results

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Conclusions Perceived work stress may be underpinned by exposure to racial discrimination at work among black African–Caribbean women, and this may affect their psychological well-being. ...................................................................................................................................................................................

Key words

Ethnicity; racial discrimination; work stress.

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Introduction
Work stress can be defined in several ways. First, it is
often viewed as a characteristic of the work environment
similar to other environmental hazards, such as noise. In
this case, it is measured by considering the relationship
between exposure and health. Second, it is seen as a physiological response to a threatening or difficult aspect of work, and may be measured directly (e.g. an adverse reaction to work stress can be measured using cortisol). Third, it may be seen in terms of an interactional framework, as in the effort–reward imbalance model [1], where the imbalance between effort and reward at work interacts to influence health. Finally, transactional theories [2] focus on the cognitive processes and emotional reactions

individuals have with their work environment. In this
case, perceptions of stress are primarily used. In the work
described here, the impact of work characteristics, including both environmental stressors (such as noise and working hours) and organizational stressors (such as
1
Centre for Occupational and Health Psychology, Cardiff University, 63 Park Place, Cardiff CF10 3AS, UK.
2
Centre for Psychiatry, Queen Mary, University of London, Charterhouse Square, London E1M 6BQ, UK.

Correspondence to: E. Wadsworth, Centre for Occupational and Health Psychology, Cardiff University, 63 Park Place, Cardiff CF10 3AS, UK. Tel: 144 29 2087 6599; fax: 144 29 2087 6399;
e-mail: wadsworthej@cardiff.ac.uk

effort–reward imbalance and job demand), on perceived
work stress was considered.
In earlier work [3], 30% of non-white respondents
reported very or extremely high stress compared to
18%...
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