Job stress and agentic-communal personality traits related to serum cortisol levels of male workers in a Japanese medium-sized company: a cross-sectional study.
BACKGROUND Although serum cortisol is a widely accepted index of stress levels, associations between job stress and cortisol levels have been inconsistent. Individual differences in personality traits were discussed as one compelling explanation for this discrepancy. Agentic-communal personality traits have been examined as possible predictive factors for psychological stress. PURPOSE This study investigated correlations among agentic-communal personality traits and serum cortisol levels. It was also investigated whether job stress levels modified correlations between agentic-communal personality and cortisol levels. METHODS Participants were 198 male workers (mean age = 52.2 years) employed by a shipbuilding company in Japan. Questionnaire data and blood samples were collected during an annual health checkup. Participants completed a self-report questionnaire that included the Job Content Questionnaire (JCQ) that assesses job control as job stress levels the Communion-Agency scale (CAS) and questions regarding health behaviors. RESULTS Communion positively correlated with serum cortisol levels and unmitigated agency negatively correlated with serum cortisol levels. Stratified by job control, communion positively correlated with serum cortisol levels and agency negatively correlated with serum cortisol levels in participants with low levels of job control. Unmitigated agency negatively correlated with serum cortisol levels in participants with high levels of job control. CONCLUSION Levels of job control may modify correlations of gender-related personality with serum cortisol levels. Especially with exposure to high job stress, male workers with high femininity (i.e., high communion and low agency) were more likely to have a high stress response as measured by serum cortisol levels.