96171 - Theories and Methods in Occupational Health Psychology

Course Unit Page


This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.

Good health and well-being Decent work and economic growth

Academic Year 2021/2022

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course, students will know the most important theoretical models and theories developed by the discipline to understand workers’ health and well-being in the contemporary workplace. Additionally, students will learn the main research methods (i.e., measurement and study designs) adopted in the field and develop fundamental skills for using such methods.

Course contents

In the first part of the course (7 meetings, 21 hours) students will be introduced to the methods of occupational health psychology (OHP) with a strong emphasis on study/intervention designs and data analysis. The meetings will have a practical focus and will include the design and implementation of a real study, the analysis of real datasets provided by the lecturer, and the reporting of results. The topics covered in this part of the course will be the following:

1) Measurement issues:

–Quick review of the notion of correlation; –The theory of latent constructs, including the notions of validity and reliability and the role of factor analysis (exploratory and confirmatory); –Scale/test validation in practice; –Testing a measurement model with confirmatory factor analysis.

2) Cross-sectional designs and data analysis:

–Cross-sectional study designs (quick review); –Hierarchical regression analysis as a standard tool; –Problems associated with cross-sectional designs: causality and common method bias; –Moderation and mediation on cross sectional data: theory and implementation; –Moderated mediation: theory and implementation.

3) Introduction to longitudinal designs and data analysis:

–Incomplete vs complete panel designs; –Intensive sampling “Diary Studies”.

The second part of the course (8 meetings, 24 hours) will take the form of a series of seminars in which the lecturer will introduce a theoretical topic in the area of OHP followed by a students' presentation of the assigned papers (i.e., scientific articles/chapters) and a group discussion/debate around the presented topic. All students must read the assigned papers/chapters and contribute to the final group discussion/debate. The following OHP topics will be considered:

-Overview and history of OHP (including e description of the EU and international governmental agencies with key roles in occupational health).

-Theories of occupational stress (including an analysis of organizational and interpersonal stressors and a focus on the intensification of work and the risk for work addiction).

-The work-non work interface.

-Safety climate and organizational culture.

-Psychological and physiological strain and health endpoints (including burnout, cardiovascular disease, suicide).

-Well-being and engagement.

-Work recovery.

-Individual differences and coping.

-Preventive stress management at work: principles, theories, and practice.


Readings will be taken from the following books (none are required):

- Karasek, R., Theorell, T. (1992). Healthy work: Stress, productivity, and the reconstruction of working life. New York: Basic Books.

- Marmot, M. M., Siegrist, J. (2006). Social inequalities in health. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

- Pfeffer, J. (2018). Dying for a paycheck. New York: Harper-Collins.

- Quick, J. C., Tetrick, L. E. (2011). Handbook of Occupational Health Psychology. Washington: American Psychological Association.

- Quick, J. C., Wright, T. A., Adkins, J. A., Nelson, D. L., Quick, J. D. (2013). Preventive stress management in organizations. Washington: American Psychological Association.

- Sapolsky, R. M. (2004). Why zebras don't get ulcers. New York: St Martin's Press.

- Sinclair, R. R., Wang, M., Tetrick, L. E., (2013). Research methods in Occupational Health Psychology. London: Routledge.

- Taris, T., Peeters, M., De Witte, H. (2019). The fun and frustration of modern working life. Kalmthout: Pelckmans Pro.

Additionally, a selection of papers will be provided by the lecturer at the beginning of the course.

Teaching methods

The first part of the course will consist of a series of short presentations (i.e., lectures) given by the lecturer followed by practical exercises (e.g., scale validation in practice, design of a OHP study, analyses of cross-sectional and longitudinal data) conducted by students under the supervision of the lecturer. Students are recommended to bring and use their laptop. The second part of the course will take the form of a series of seminars consisting of students' presentations and in group discussions. So the traditional lecture will be complemented with practical exercises aiming at developing research and problem solving skills, and group work and presentations focusing on strengthening oral and written communication skills.

Assessment methods

1) Methodological examination conducted at the end of the first part of the course. To find the answers to the questions included in the examination students will need to conduct a series of data analyses on a dataset provided by the lecturer. This examination will assign a maximum of 10 points.

2) Students' presentations given during the second part of the course will assign maximum 5 additional points.

3) Oral examination based on the the readings given for the second part of the course. This will assign maximum 17 additional points.

To receive "30 and lode" the student must obtain a total of 31 or 32 points.

It is expected that students will attend all the lectures/meetings and actively participate to the different activities proposed by the lecturer.

Students who, due to motivated circumstances, cannot attend the lectures will be assessed through an oral examination focusing on the following books and additional key OHP papers agreed with the lecturer at the beginning of the course. These students must contact the lecturer as soon as possible after the beginning of the course.

- Pfeffer, J. (2018). Dying for a paycheck. New York: Harper-Collins.

- Sinclair, R. R., Wang, M., Tetrick, L. E., (2013). Research methods in Occupational Health Psychology. London: Routledge. [This book is available as an electronic resource from the University of Bologna library)

Teaching tools

At the beginning of the course the slides, readings, and additional course material will be made available for download from the web platform "Virtuale": https://virtuale.unibo.it/

Office hours

See the website of Cristian Balducci