An examination of stressors, strain, and resilience in academic and non-academic U.K. university job roles

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Recent years have seen changes within the academic profession including decreased perceptions of autonomy and job security, increasing student numbers and teaching quality focus, and greater emphasis on high-quality research outputs. Such changes arguably lead to increased workplace stress, and given the potential negative impact of high workplace stress levels on health and work-related outcomes, a consideration of stressors and strain within academia is timely. In this article, we compared stressors and strain across U.K. academic and non-academic university job roles. The article also determines which stressors are the strongest drivers of poor health and considers the role of resilience in the stressor–strain relationship. The sample consisted of participants from three U.K. universities using the ASSET (A Shortened Stress Evaluation Tool) stress measure that gives information on eight stressors and two measures of strain (psychological and physical ill-health). As data sets varied across organizations, different subsamples were used for analysis, with sample sizes of N = 2,779 to N = 652, with the majority of the analysis using the smaller sample. Academics reported better physical health, higher levels of work overload, poorer work–life balance, better job conditions and work relationships, and less concern about pay and benefits in comparison with non-academic employees. For both academic and non-academic staff, the stressors work–life balance and aspects of the job were associated with psychological and physical ill-health, and stressors that impact ill-health did not differ by job type. Resilience had a direct effect on psychological and physical ill-health as well as an indirect effect by influencing perceptions of stressors.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)162-172
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Journal of Stress Management
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2019


  • Academic
  • Health
  • Mediation
  • Resilience
  • Workplace stress


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