Does organization matter? A multilevel analysis of the demand-control model applied to human services

Björn Söderfeldt, Marie Söderfeldt, Kelvyn Jones, Patricia O'Campo, Carles Muntaner, Carl Göran Ohlson, Lars Erik Warg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

78 Citations (Scopus)


The demand-control model (DC model) in occupational epidemiology suggests that health, an individual attribute, is partly determined by work organization, via the interplay of demand and control, job strain. The objective of this study was empirical assessment of the model's tenet of an organizational determination of individual health. An emerging analytic method, multi-level modelling, permits such an assessment The study encompasses two large Swedish human service organizations. It was based on a nationally representative sample of 291 local organizational units (level 2) with 8296 employees (level 1), a median of 18 employees per unit. 5730 persons (69.1%) completed the questionnaire. Listwise deletion of missing data left a net study base of 4756 individuals in 284 units. Missing data were largely random. Demand and control were measured by standard questions-and combined into a job strain index. Two such indices were calculated, one for quantitative demands and one for emotional demands. Individual attributes included age, gender, marital status, having children, social anchorage, and education. There were two dependent variables, self-assessed psychovegetative symptoms (worry, anxiousness, sadness, sleep difficulties, restlessness, and tension) and exhaustion (fatigue, feelings of being used up and overworked), both measured as summative indices. For psychovegetative health, a null model yielded 2.2% level 2 variance, unchanging when individual, attributes were included in a random intercepts model. Inclusion of the strain variables rendered level 2 Variance non-significant, decreasing level 1 variance by 23% and level 2 variance by 62%. For exhaustion, level 2 variation was 8.3% in the null model and 1.6% in the final model, with strain variables. The strain variables utilized in the DC-model thus draw a substantial part of their variation from the organizational level. It is concluded that the claim of the DC model to rely on organizational factors receives support.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)527-534
Number of pages8
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1997 Feb

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgements--This study was funded by the Swedish Work Environment Fund, grant no AMFO 91-0864.


  • Demand-control model
  • Human services
  • Multi-level analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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