What Is the Society for Occupational Health Psychology?

Smiling man in black shirt in front of factory machinery.

Because I study worker health, people sometimes ask me what is the Society for Occupational Health Psychology or SOHP. It is simply an organization of academics and practitioners whose work addresses employee health, safety, and well-being. It has become increasingly recognized that the well-being of people and organizations are intertwined, and that effective organizations must do all they can to support worker health and well-being. But wanting to maintain a healthy workforce and knowing how to create one are two separate things. That’s where SOHP comes in by providing research and tools to help organizations help their employees.

A Little History

The roots of concern with worker health and well-being in psychology and related fields can be traced back more than a century. However, the formal study of the connection between work and health didn’t get rolling until the 1970s in Northern Europe. It would not be until the 21st century that researchers worldwide became interested in the topic. Today we know that adverse working conditions care linked to both physical and mental health, and that awareness has spread beyond researchers to practicing managers and the general public.

What Is Occupational Health Psychology?

The field of psychology is divided into many distinct areas, with the largest being clinical psychology. The occupational health psychology or OHP area is devoted to worker health, safety, and well-being. There are other areas that are concerned with workers (Industrial-Organizational, I-O), health (health psychology) or well-being (clinical psychology) but OHP brings all of these interests together. Individuals who identify with OHP come from a variety of backgrounds. More than half are I-O psychologists, but many have backgrounds in other areas of psychology and disciplines outside of psychology such as medicine, nursing, and public health.

What Is the Society for Occupational Health Psychology?

In 2005 31 “founding members” (including me) each chipped in $100 to create a nonprofit organization devoted to occupational health psychology. The vision was to grow an organization to promote research and practice to benefit workers. Although you can find other societies that are concerned with the workplace, their focus is not specifically on worker well-being. The SOHP community consists of individuals whose work involves psychological factors that play a role in occupational health.

SOHP has two major initiatives. First, they own one of three OHP-specific journals–Occupational Health Science. The journal launched in 2017 and is published 4 times each year. The most recent issue has research articles on burnout, exercise, loneliness, mistreatment, and telework, all from a health/well-being perspective. Second, they organize a bi-annual OHP conference Work, Stress and Health. This conference brings together about 600 academics and practitioners to present research and discuss solutions to OHP problems.

SOHP maintains a website that contains OHP resources for educators, researchers, and students. Here you can find:

  • Links to research journals that publish articles on OHP topics.
  • Teaching resources including syllabi for teaching OHP classes at the graduate and undergraduate levels.
  • A list of schools that offer graduate training in OHP.
  • Career resources for new (and not-so-new) OHP graduates.
  • Web resources for OHP researchers.
  • A brief history of OHP.

As OHP is a growing field that is filling an important need, SOHP will become increasingly relevant as an organization society devoted to making the workplace better and safer for the people who work there.

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