The epidemiology of health and wellbeing in the workplace
: managing and measuring occupational stress and behavioural factors in a male-dominated industry

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)


This mixed-methods thesis explores the epidemiology of health and wellbeing in male-dominated workplaces, with a specific focus on the construction industry in the UK.
A systematic review of 35 studies for workplace health interventions in male-dominated industries found albatross plots indicated some evidence of positive associations for musculoskeletal disorder interventions. There was little evidence of intervention effect on body mass index (p=0.18) and blood pressure (diastolic p=0.63; systolic p=0.86).
32 qualitative interviews with construction professionals explored their experiences of occupational stress and the effect on health and wellbeing. Occupational stress was viewed as an inherent feature of the workplace, and participants felt there were competing priorities that prevented health and wellbeing being adequately addressed. Participants were also receptive to a workplace health and wellbeing intervention but suggested that management support and ‘buy in’ would be necessary to give employees permission to prioritise their health and wellbeing.
The use of stopWatch, a system that detects cigarette smoking on a commercially available smartwatch, can help prevent relapses among smokers attempting to quit. We conducted the first field trial of stopWatch in a small population (n=6) of construction professionals, but only detected 31% of cigarettes smoked in the workplace. A number of practical issues were identified, and recommendations made to further research.
Using shift work as part of construction projects is related to negative outcomes due to higher injury risk, alongside lack of sleep. Secondary analysis of Understanding Society and Generation Scotland datasets found evidence that night shift work was associated with higher DNA methylation scores for body mass index (0.79; 95%CI 0.02, 1.56; p=0.04) and lower DNA methylation scores for educational attainment (−0.18; −0.30, −0.07; p=0.002). Night shift workers showed evidence of greater age acceleration, based on two measures of epigenetic age (0.80; 0.42, 1.18; p
Date of Award6 Dec 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Bristol
SupervisorFrank de Vocht (Supervisor), R M Langford (Supervisor) & Richard M Martin (Supervisor)

Cite this