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Journal Article

Work-related stress and atopic dermatitis: Results from the Study on Occupational Allergy Risks


Schlotz,  Wolff       
Scientific Services, Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics, Max Planck Society;

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Weinmann, T., Forster, F., Hell, K., Gerlich, J., Wengenroth, L., Schlotz, W., et al. (2022). Work-related stress and atopic dermatitis: Results from the Study on Occupational Allergy Risks. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene. doi:10.1080/15459624.2022.2151604.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-000C-6D2B-B
Chronic stress at work is ubiquitous in modern societies. However, its influence on atopic dermatitis (AD) has hardly been investigated. This study aimed to elucidate the association between work-related stress and AD via a longitudinal study. The analysis comprised data from three phases (2002-2003, 2007-2009, 2017-2018) of the prospective Study on Occupational Allergy Risks (SOLAR), including 1240 young adults aged 16 to 18 years at baseline (61% female) that were originally recruited for the International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood Phase II in 1995-96. Atopic dermatitis was assessed at all three phases based upon self-reports of a physician’s diagnosis and symptoms. Work-related stress was measured at all three periods using the work discontent and work overload scales from the Trier Inventory for the Assessment of Chronic Stress with adaptions to school and university. Generalized estimating equations were used to analyze the association between stress and atopic dermatitis, treating work discontent and work overload first as continuous and then as categorical exposure variables. We observed 50 AD cases (4%) at SOLAR I, 48 (4%) at SOLAR II and 42 (3%) at SOLAR III. A one-point increase in the work discontent score was associated with an Odds Ratio (OR) for AD of 1.05 (95% Confidence Interval (CI) 1.00-1.10). The respective increase in the work overload score lead to an OR of 1.03 (95% CI 0.99-1.06). In the categorical analysis, there was no clear indication of elevated odds of AD in the highest vs. lowest exposure group (4th vs 1st quartile: OR 1.53, 95% CI 0.92-2.53 for work discontent; OR 1.38, 95% CI 0.83-2.27 for work overload). Altogether, we observed limited to no evidence for an association between work-related stress and AD. Our study’s ability to detect stronger evidence may have been compromised by shortcomings like non-differential misclassification of the outcome or insufficient statistical precision due to small numbers of AD cases. Another explanation could be that AD predominantly becomes evident in childhood, not in adulthood.