An Occupational Portrait of Emotional Labor Requirements and Their Health Consequences for Workers

Scholarship has revealed inconsistent evidence on the issue of whether emotional labor represents an occupational health risk. Drawing from emotion regulation theory, the conservation of resources model and the interactive service work literature, we examine the association between occupational emotional labor requirements and worker well-being. Analyses of a national sample of American workers merged with occupational information from the O*NET database reveal no evidence that these requirements are associated with psychological distress or high blood pressure; in contrast, emotional labor requirements are associated with a reduced likelihood of self-rated poor health. Consistent with the conservation of resources model, however, we find health penalties for individuals with emotional labor requirements in resource-deprived work contexts. Our findings suggest that for individuals with limited job autonomy and little access to civil interpersonal relationships with coworkers, emotional labor requirements may impede successful emotion regulation in ways that contribute to negative occupational outcomes and strain.

Source: Singh, D., & Glavin, P. (2017). Work and Occupations.

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