Chronic stress indicated by hair cortisol concentration in anaesthesiologists and its relationship to work experience and emotional intelligence: A cross-sectional biomarker and survey study
Number of pages
SourceEuropean Journal of Anaesthesiology, 39, 1, (2022), pp. 26-32
Article / Letter to the editor
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SW OZ BSI AO
European Journal of Anaesthesiology
SubjectAll institutes and research themes of the Radboud University Medical Center; Radboudumc 17: Women's cancers RIHS: Radboud Institute for Health Sciences; Radboudumc 18: Healthcare improvement science RIHS: Radboud Institute for Health Sciences; Radboudumc 2: Cancer development and immune defence RIMLS: Radboud Institute for Molecular Life Sciences; Work, Health and Performance
BACKGROUND Anaesthesia is a stressful medical specialty. The reaction to stress is constituted by behavioural, psychological and physiological components. Chronic physiological stress can have negative consequences for health. OBJECTIVES First, we hypothesised that chronic physiological stress is higher for both beginning and late-career consultant anaesthesiologists. Second, we hypothesised that individuals high in emotional intelligence endure lower physiological stress. DESIGN Cross-sectional biomarker and survey study. SETTING Participants were recruited during the May 2019 annual meeting of the Dutch Anaesthesia Society. PARTICIPANTS Of the 1348 colleagues who attended the meeting, 184 (70 male/114 female) participated in the study. Of the study participants, 123 (67%) were consultant anaesthesiologists (52 male/71 female) and 61 (33%) were resident anaesthesiologists (18 male/43 female). Exclusion criteria were endocrine disorders and not having enough hair. Also, experience of a recent major life event led to exclusion from analysis of our hypotheses. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES Chronic physiological stress was measured by hair cortisol concentration. Emotional intelligence was assessed using a validated Dutch version of the Trait Emotional Intelligence Questionnaire. As secondary measures, psychological sources of stress were assessed using validated Dutch versions of the home-work interference (SWING) and the effort-reward imbalance questionnaires. RESULTS In support of Hypothesis 1, hair cortisol concentration was highest among early and late-career consultant anaesthesiologists (quadratic effect: b = 45.5, SE = 16.1, t = 2.8, P = 0.006, R2 = 0.14). This nonlinear pattern was not mirrored by self-reported sources of psychological stress. Our results did not support Hypothesis 2; we found no evidence for a relationship between emotional intelligence and physiological stress. CONCLUSION In the early and later phases of an anaesthesiologist's career, physiological chronic stress is higher than in the middle of the career. However, this physiological response could not be explained from known sources of psychological stress. We discuss these findings against the background of key differences between physiological and psychological stress.
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