The original Whitehall Study, sometimes referred to as the Whitehall I Study, investigated cardiorespiratorydisease prevalence and mortality rates, among Britishmale civil servantsbetween the ages of 20 and 64, over a period of 10 years beginning in 1967. A second phase, the Whitehall II Study, examined the health of 10,308 civil servants aged 35-55, of whom two thirds were men and one third women. A long-term follow-up of study subjects from the first two phases is ongoing.
The Whitehallstudies found a strong association between grade levels of civil servant employment and mortality rates from a range of causes. Men in the lowest grade (messengers, doorkeepers, etc.) had a mortality rate three times higher than that of men in the highest grade (administrators).
- 1 Whitehall I
- 2 Whitehall II
- 3 Health risks associated with disparities of wealth and power
- 4 Direction
- 5 External links
The first phase of the Whitehall studies, or Whitehall I, found there were higher mortality ratesin men of lower employment grade specifically due to coronary heart disease, as well as increased mortality rates due to all causes for lower status men.
The initial Whitehall study found lower grades, and thus status, were clearly associated with greater propensities for significant risk factors, including obesity, smoking, reduced leisuretime and physical activity, more baseline illness, higher blood pressure, and shorter height. Controlling for these risk factors accounted for no more than 40% of grade differences in cardiovascular diseasemortality. Even after these standard risk factors were controlled for, the lowest grade still had a relative risk of 2.1 for cardiovasular disease mortality compared to the highest grade.
The second phase, or Whitehall II, sought to examine the association between the psychosocial work environment and subsequent rates of absenteeism due to illness. Two controlled trials were conducted for high-risk subjects: one trial examined anti-smoking counseling, while the other trial examined preventative treatment for those found to be at risk because of impaired glucosetolerance. Besides smoking and glucose intolerance, civil servant grade was also found to be associated with other specific causes of death.
Among the conclusions drawn from the second phase were that stress due to the psychosocial work environment factors predicts rates of sickness absenteeism, and that enhanced control of task management and support "could have beneficial effects," such as increasing productivity and improving employee health and well-being.
Health risks associated with disparities of wealth and power
By design, the Whitehall studies have been focused upon a single swath of related occupations, wherein relatively little heterogeneity exists within occupational grades, yet clear social distinctions between grades are inherent. The studies were designed in this manner as an attempt to avoid certain research drawbacks associated with generalized social classgroupings, drawbacks that otherwise would result from the diversity of occupations within social classes, which in turn would tend to reduce the potential objectivity of analyses.
The primary health risks under investigation in the Whitehall studies include cardiovascular function, smoking, car ownership, angina, leisure/hobbies, ECGmeasurements, and diabetes. The name for the Whitehall Study derives from a road in London, the capital of the United Kingdom, where a vast number of British civil servants work. The road takes its name from the vast Palace of Whitehall, which runs between Trafalgar Squareand Parliament Square.
High blood pressure at work was associated with greater 'job stress', including 'lack of skill utilization', 'tension', and 'lack of clarity' in tasks assigned. The higher blood pressure among the lowest grade servants was found to be related to the highest job stress score, whereas blood pressure at home was not related to job stress level.
According to Whitehall study researchs, "a steep inverse association between social class, as assessed by grade of employment, and mortality from a wide range of diseases" has been demonstrated. Summing up the moral of the Whitehall studies, the researchers concluded that "more attention should be paid to the social environments, job design, and the consequences of income inequality."
The study is directed by Professor Michael Marmotof the Dapartment of Epidemiology and Public Health at University College London
- Statistics.gov.uk- 'Whitehall Study' (statistical database)
- UCL.ac.uk (pdf)- 'Cohort Profile: The Whitehall II Study'
- WorkHealth.org- 'The Whitehall Study' (summary), Michael Marmot
- WorkHealth.org- 'Selected Abstracts from the Whitehall II Study', Marmot, et al.
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License.
It uses material from the http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whitehall+Study Wikipedia article Whitehall Study.