Occupational stress and its economic cost in Hong Kong : The role of positive emotions

Oi Ling SIU*, Cary L. COOPER, Lara C. ROLL, Carol LO

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


There has been less research on the costs of occupational stress attributed to certain job stressors in Chinese contexts. This study identified and validated common job stressors and estimated the economic cost in Hong Kong. The role of positive emotions in alleviating the economic costs of job stressors was also examined. Both qualitative and quantitative approaches were adopted. The findings obtained from five focus group discussions and a survey validated five common job stressors: Job insecurity; quantitative workload; organizational constraints; interpersonal conflicts; and work/home interface. A total of 2511 employees were surveyed, with 2032 valid questionnaires returned (925 males, 1104 females, and 3 unidentified, whose ages ranged from 18 to 70 years). The economic costs were estimated by combining the costs of absenteeism, presenteeism, and medical expenses. Absenteeism mainly caused by job stressors of the work/home interface, job insecurity, and quantitative workload accounted for an annual economic cost of HK$550 million to HK$860 million. The annual economic cost due to presenteeism mainly caused by job stressors of job insecurity, interpersonal conflict, quantitative workload, and organizational constraints ranged from HK$1.373 billion to HK$2.146 billion. The cost of medical treatments associated with occupational stress was HK$2.889 billion to HK$4.083 billion. Therefore, the total annual economic cost of occupational stress was approximately HK$4.81 billion to HK$7.09 billion. Positive emotions, representing a less explored individual factor in the cost of occupational stress studies, was found to be negatively correlated with presenteeism and buffered the negative impact of job stressors on absenteeism. The theoretical contributions and practical implications of findings are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Article number8601
Number of pages22
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number22
Publication statusPublished - 19 Nov 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding: This research was funded by the Occupational Safety and Health Council, Hong Kong (grant no.: CM/4R/2015-03).

Acknowledgments: We are grateful to Binyan Liu, Yiran Zhao, and Haobi Wang for their assistance in data analysis.

Conflicts of Interest: The funders were involved in project conceptualization, but had no role in the collection, analyses, or interpretation of data; in the writing of the manuscript; or in the decision to publish the results.


  • Absenteeism
  • Economic cost
  • Occupational stress
  • Positive emotions
  • Presenteeism


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