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In order to advance research on stress-related symptoms in occupational health psychology, our study examined three ways to measure physical symptoms—by asking about symptom frequency, interference with daily activities and whether a doctor was seen for each symptom. We used exploratory factor analysis and item response theory to gain greater insight into these measures and compared how symptoms measured along these dimensions predicted other stress-related outcomes in the workplace. Among the main findings of our study are the following: (1) symptoms may be categorized as those that occur as a response to acute events and those that reflect more chronic stress; (2) individuals appear to have a relatively low threshold for reporting that acute symptoms (e.g. heart pounding) interfere with daily activities; and (3) specific symptom (acute, chronic)–response format (frequency, interference) combinations uniquely predicted other strain variables in conceptually meaningful ways. Recommendations for the assessment of physical symptoms are provided.

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Journal Article

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