Job Satisfaction among Mental Health Workers: Associations with Respiratory Sinus Reactivity to, and Recovery from Exposure to Mental Stress

William H. O'Brien*, Paul W. Goetz, Heather McCarren, Eileen Delaney, William F. Morrison, Tanya S. Watford, Kristin A. Horan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

1 Scopus citations


Work characteristics such as job satisfaction have been associated with mental and physical health outcomes in several cross-sectional and longitudinal studies. However, meta-analytic reviews indicate that nearly all of the reported relationships between these two sets of constructs rely on self-report measures. Thus, the magnitude of the reported relationships may be inaccurate and inflated due to common method variance (mono-method bias) and negative affectivity. Respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA) is an objective measure of risk for adverse mental health and physical health outcomes. To our knowledge, there has been no investigation of the relationship between job satisfaction and respiratory sinus arrhythmia. In this investigation, 29 workers in mental health settings who experience higher than average levels of work stress due to the amount and unpredictability of workload completed sociodemographic measures and a job satisfaction measure. RSA was then collected during a resting baseline, a worry induction stressor condition where they were instructed to think about work stressors, and a post-stress recovery condition. RSA reactivity to the stressor was significantly greater for participants with low job satisfaction. The low job satisfaction participants also demonstrated less RSA recovery after the stressor ended. Alternatively, participants with higher job satisfaction reacted less and recovered more completely from the stressor.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)32-38
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Psychophysiology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2019



  • job satisfaction
  • respiratory sinus arrhythmia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Physiology

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