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Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2010 Sep;35(1):51-7. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2009.11.005. Epub 2009 Nov 13.

Psychophysiological biomarkers of workplace stressors.

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  • 1UCL International Institute of Health and Society, UCL Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College London, London, United Kingdom.


Workplace stressors are associated with greater coronary heart disease risk, although there is debate over the psychophysiological consequences of work stress. This study builds on recent reviews and examines the literature linking work stress with sympatho-adrenal biomarkers (plasma catecholamines and heart rate variability) and HPA axis biomarkers - the post-morning profile of cortisol.


Relevant studies using appropriate search terms were searched using the bibliographic databases PubMed, Embase, Biosys and Toxline. Four studies on plasma catecholamines, 10 studies on heart rate variability, and 16 studies on post-morning cortisol were reviewed.


In the majority of studies that examined the association of HRV and work stress, greater reports of work stress is associated with lower heart rate variability. The findings for plasma catecholamines and cortisol secretion are less clear cut and suffer from poorer quality of studies in general.


There is evidence that work stress is related to elevated stress responses in terms of sympatho-adrenal and HPA axis biomarkers.

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