Protocol - Job Strain

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This protocol includes 15 self-administered questions from the Skill Discretion (seven items), Decision Authority (three items), and Psychological Job Demands (five items) subscales of the Job Content Questionnaire. The protocol includes basic instructions for scoring the subscales and using the subscales to calculate job strain.

Specific Instructions

The Job Content Questionnaire (JCQ) is a proprietary protocol. A license for the JCQ can be obtained from the JCQ Center website (http://jcqcenter.org/). Currently, there is a usage charge for research projects containing over 500 participants.


Limited Availability


Summary of the Skill Discretion, Decision Authority, and Psychological Job Demands subscales of the Job Content Questionnaire

The Skill Discretion subscale includes questions that ask the respondent to rate whether or not she or he learns new things, performs repetitive work, can develop her or his own abilities, and her or his work has variety.

The Decision Authority subscale includes questions that ask the respondent to rate whether or not she or he makes her or his own decisions and has a lot of input at work.

The Psychological Job Demands subscale asks the respondent to rate whether or not they have to work hard; have to work fast; have excessive work; have enough time; and have conflicting demands.

Scoring Instructions

Each question response includes a four-point Likert scale: strongly disagree, disagree, agree, and strongly agree. Responses from specific questions are added together and multiplied by a weighting factor to generate scores for each subscale. Skill Discretion and Decision Authority subscales are added together to generate a Decision Latitude score. Employees are scored as having high job strain if they are above the median for Psychological Job Demands and below the median for Decision Latitude.

Please note that the JCQ also has other subscales that could also be of interest to researchers and that include physical demands, job insecurity, supervisor support, and coworker support. Please see the source information below for further details.

Personnel and Training Required

No specific training is needed if data are collected through a self-administered questionnaire.

Equipment Needs

These questions can be administered in a computerized or noncomputerized format (i.e., paper-and pencil instrument). Computer software is necessary to develop computer-assisted instruments. The interviewer will require a laptop computer or handheld computer to administer or to allow the respondent to self-administer a computer-assisted questionnaire.

Requirement CategoryRequired
Major equipment No
Specialized training No
Specialized requirements for biospecimen collection No
Average time of greater than 15 minutes in an unaffected individual No
Mode of Administration

Self-administered questionnaire




Adults, aged 18 years and older

Selection Rationale

The Job Content Questionnaire (JCQ) is a validated, widely used instrument that is easy to use and administer. It has been used in diverse samples and countries to study the physical and psychological correlates of working conditions. The JCQ demonstrates substantial predictive validity with respect to stress-related chronic disease in international and U.S. research (Karasek et al., 1998).


Chinese, English, Other languages available at source

Logical Observation Identifiers Names and Codes (LOINC) Job strain proto 63034-3 LOINC
Human Phenotype Ontology Social and occupational deterioration HP:0007086 HPO
Derived Variables


Process and Review

The Expert Review Panel #2 (ERP 2) reviewed the measures in the Demographics, Environmental Exposures, and Social Environments domains.

Guidance from ERP 2 includes:

• Revised descriptions of the measure

Back-compatible: no changes to Data Dictionary

Previous version in Toolkit archive (link)

Protocol Name from Source

Job Content Questionnaire (JCQ)


The Job Content Questionnaire (JCQ) is a proprietary instrument available from the JCQ Center:

Job Content Questionnaire Center
Department of Work Environment University of Massachusetts Lowell
Lowell, MA 01854 USA
Phone: 978.934.3348
E-mail: jcqcenter@uml.edu
Website: http://www.jcqcenter.org/

General References

Karasek, R., Brisson, C., Kawakami, N., Houtman, I., Bongers, P., & Amick, B. (1998). The Job Content Questionnaire (JCQ): An instrument for internationally comparative assessment of psychosocial job characteristics. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 3, 322-355.

Karasek, R., & Theorell, T. (1990). Healthy work: Stress, productivity, and the reconstruction of working life. New York: Basic Books.

Landsbergis, P. A., Schnall, P. L., Warren, K., Pickering, T. G., & Schwartz, J. E. (1994). Association between ambulatory blood pressure and alternative formulations of job strain. Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment & Health, 20, 349-363.

Schnall, P. L., Landsbergis, P. A., & Baker, D. (1994). Job strain and cardiovascular disease. Annual review of public health, 15(1), 381-411.

Protocol ID


Export Variables
Variable Name Variable IDVariable DescriptiondbGaP Mapping
PX211201000000 Protocol 211201 - proprietary. Check DCW for more
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Social Environments
Measure Name

Job Strain

Release Date

October 8, 2010


This measure is a questionnaire that assesses how much stress a person experiences in their job.


This measure can be used to assess how much stress a respondent experiences at work by assessing work demands and the extent to which workers can use their skills and discretion on the job. Many studies suggest that jobs that offer little decision latitude and high levels of demands are associated with cardiovascular disease and indicators of mental health such as anxiety and depression (Karasek et al., 1998; Landsbergis et al., 1994).


Work-related stress, demand-control model, job stress, job control, Job Content Questionnaire, JCQ, proprietary, Social environments, work characteristics

Measure Protocols
Protocol ID Protocol Name
211201 Job Strain

Hitz, M.M., Conway, P.G, Palcher, J.A., McCarty, C.A. (2014) Using PhenX toolkit measures and other tools to assess urban/rural differences in health behaviors: recruitment methods and outcomes. BMC Research Notes. 2014 November; 7(847). doi: 10.1186/1756-0500-7-847