Psychosocial job characteristics and heart rate variability – a good heart rate for better health (Hyvällä sykkeellä töissä)

The psychosocial factors of work are known to affect workers’ health. Until now, research has focused on adverse body reactions and disease risks caused by the stressful demands of work, whereas little is known about the body’s reactions to job resources. By means of a questionnaire and heart rate variability measurements, this research project will identify which job demands and resources are the main factors that undermine or contribute to health.
Päiväkodin työntekijä katsoo tablettia.




Psychosocial factors related to work and working conditions are linked to stress reactions in the body, which, if prolonged, lead to poorer health.

So far, studies on the links between the psychosocial factors of work and the physiological responses of the body have mainly focused on the stressful demands of work (e.g. role conflicts and excessive workloads). In contrast, little is known about the links between the psychosocial resources of work (e.g. job variety and social support) and the physiological responses of the body.

The fact that research has focused on workload and disease risks has resulted in an incomplete picture of the physiological responses of the body to the psychosocial factors of work, thus leading to only partial measures to promote occupational health.

In this study, we will examine the physiological links of the psychosocial factors of work from the perspectives of stressors and resources. We will identify which job demands and resources, or their combinations in relation to other job demands and resources, are most strongly associated with heart rate variability. The simultaneous examination of job demands and resources is important for the practical application of the results because employees may encounter both job demands and resources at the same time. 

Data and methods

The study will focus on the employees of the City of Raisio. A sample of approximately 240 employees will be selected from the roughly 1,000 employees of the City of Raisio, including the employees of five daycare centres, supervisors of the City of Raisio, catering staff, office workers and specialists. The City of Raisio aims to be able to influence occupational health in the future, both by reducing health risks and by strengthening and increasing factors that promote health.

We will study the psychosocial demands and resources of work through a questionnaire. The employees’ heart rate variability will be measured every night of the working week, for a total of four consecutive nights. In addition to this, the employees will keep a diary for the duration of the heart rate variability measurements, writing down things such as the times they go to bed and wake up, as well as various other factors affecting heart rate variability that will be standardised in the study.

We will use both variable- and person-centred statistical methods of analysis, and the research analyses will be conducted by using dominance analysis and latent profile analysis.

Results and impact

The results will allow us to identify which psychosocial job demands and job resources , or combinations of these, have the strongest influence on heart rate variability and, if repeated, can lead to positive or negative health effects.

Based on the results of the study, we will produce the ‘Hyvällä sykkeellä töissä’ online learning material and a related workbook, which will be published in early 2025.

  • The online learning material will provide information on what is meant by psychosocial job demands and resources, autonomic nervous system function and heart rate variability, and which job demands and resources employees and workplaces should focus on in order to promote beneficial heart rate variability and health.
  • The workbook will include exercises to help you learn how to regulate the job demands and resources identified as key factors affecting heart rate variability as part of your regular work routine.

The workbook will focus on exercises for employees, while the online learning material will also include exercises for the work community, so that responsibility for the modification of working conditions would not fall solely on individual employees.

The learning material and workbook will help employees and workplaces learn how to influence the body’s responses by regulating and modifying their work and working conditions.

Even though the measurement of personal well-being, and in particular heart rate variability, is now increasingly used in health promotion and disease prevention, its use for workplace-related factors is still rather unstructured. This research project will help clarify and define how the measurement of heart rate variability could be better used in the future by work organisations to promote occupational health.

For more information about the project, please contact

Piia Seppälä.

Piia Seppälä

principal investigator, senior specialist researcher

Piia.Seppala [at]
+358 30 474 2467
Telma Rivinoja

Telma Rivinoja

project online material and workbook, senior specialist 

telma.rivinoja [at]
+358 30 474 2070
Henkilökuva Maria Sihvola

Maria Sihvola

heart rate measurement, senior specialist

maria.sihvola [at]
+358 30 474 2214


The City of Raisio acts as the research subject of the project.


The Finnish Work Environment Fund, the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health and the City of Raisio. 

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