Study 1 comprised a cross-sectional questionnaire survey designed to identify workrelated
stressors and the prevalence of perceived strain amongst a randomly selected
and representative sample of naval service personnel. Key identified stressors were:
work/family conflict, role conflict, poor physical work environment, lack of resources
and lack of autonomy and control. The latter factor had a direct effect on strain,
contrary to Karasek's demands/control model. The impact of identified stressors was
moderated by supervisor and peer support, but not by spouse support. Significant
differences in indices of strain were observed. The overall GHQ 'case' rate was
significantly higher than the general population, whilst significantly higher rates were
reported by females compared to males. Significantly lower rates were reported by
officers compared to ratings, and by those aged 25 and older compared to those under
25 years. RN female ratings, aged under 25 years, serving on ships reported the
highest GHQ 'case' rates.
This finding prompted Study 2 to examine in greater detail the factors contributing to
work-related strain for those serving on ships, particularly for young naval ratings.
Two warships were nominated to participate in a longitudinal study during a six
month operational deployment. The study monitored the physical and psychological
well-being of 124 volunteers during the deployment, including the contribution of
personality and coping styles using a combination of qualitative and quantitative data.
Volunteers' use and opinions of support services were also sought, as the naval
service provides a comprehensive support framework to assist personnel with
professional, family, legal and financial difficulties.
The findings reinforced those from Study 1, in that similar work-related stressors
were identified as contributing to increased strain. Control at work did not influence
the work demands/strain relationship, though this may partly be due to the
confounding effect of gender, as females reported significantly lower control than
males, and partly to the small sample size (93 compared to 1,170 for Study 1).
Significant main effects for supervisor support were found, whether neuroticism was
controlled for or not. Both work/family conflict and role conflict were significantly
related to perceived strain, depending on whether neuroticism was controlled for,
though lack of resources was not a significant factor. Work/family conflict was also
related to poorer organisational commitment. The significance of work/family
conflict as both related to greater strain and lower organisational commitment is a key
finding for the executive in developing policy and manpower projection forecasts.
Significant relationships were observed between neuroticism and strain at all three
measurement points during the deployment, but possible gender bias in the
measurement tool cannot be discounted. A modest relationship was observed
between the coping style 'avoidance' with both neuroticism and strain, suggesting this
may not be an appropriate coping style for the demands of service life at sea.
Study 1 found that the various support services provided by the organisation did not
ameliorate the effects of strain in the workplace. The views expressed by participants
in Study 2 reveal a range of attitudes, some negative, including a lack of knowledge
about the services provided. This highlights the need for greater publicity about the
support services available. Negative gender stereotypes also appear to persist within
the divisional system, creating a barrier to effective divisional care.
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