Stress and stress related diseases are increasing in prevalence in society, and this may be exacerbated by the aging of the population. The concept of stress inherently spans from psychosocial to biological levels and research advancing knowledge in this area should, therefore, be interdisciplinary. This chain linking stress to health is seldom addressed as a whole and very seldom in an interdisciplinary way. To do this with implementation of new innovative ideas (see below) was the founding idea of the Forte Center for Interdisciplinary Research on Work, Stress and Health – or Stockholm Stress Center (SSC).
Our work covers several approaches to the topic.
One of these tries to link stressors to long-term disease/mortality (including sickness absence) across long time periods. For this purpose is used epidemiological methods, including international consortia that pool multiple cohorts from many countries to provide increased power and more conclusive evidence.
Another approach involves detailed identification of the specific modern working life factors that increase the risk of excessive and/or protracted stress reactions and ultimately lead to disease. This emphasizes work psychology and includes research on, for example, job mobility, job insecurity, organizational change, boundaryless work, leadership, etc.
A third approach involves studies of the stress-health biological mechanisms, which are assumed to be short-term physiological stress responses (hormones, immune system, altered brain activity, sleep) that, when repeatedly activated without sufficient recovery or dysregulated, may contribute to long-term disease. Stress is thus viewed as a basically adaptive phenomenon, but research focuses on maladaptive aspects of stress and how these can be counteracted through protective factors and interventions. We try to introduce sleep as the antithesis of stress and as a possible mediator of metabolic and other diseases. One hypothesis is that increased stress or reduced sleep contributes to reduced inflammatory control, that inflammation results in fatigue and perceptions of poor health, that the latter two are closely related as a key behavioral response to suboptimal sleep and that both can lead to increased vulnerability, altered sickness absence and presence.
A fourth approach involves labor market participation, that is, sickness absence, disability pension, in relation to diagnosed stress related disease as predictors, but also effects of sickness absence itself (or of sickness presenteeism).
A fifth and sixth approach focus on work place interventions, as well as on new psychological treatment for stress related disease. Finally a seventh approach focuses on methodological development.
One of the strengths of SSC is its focus on longitudinal studies with large numbers of participants, as well as on experiments, interventions and biology. We also use state of the art statistics and new frontline methods. Another strength is the links to clinical work, collaborations with ministries other government organizations private companies (se detailed information below). We are also involved in academic teaching (physicians, psychologists) and in lectures to the public, which contributes to input to our scientific thinking.