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Chronic stress, behavioral tendencies, and determinants of health behaviors in nurses: a mixed-methods approach

Heuel, Luis; Lübstorf, Svea; Otto, Ann-Kathrin; Wollesen, Bettina

Background: Nurses experience high, and often chronic, levels of occupational stress. As high-quality care requires a healthy workforce, individualized stress-alleviating interventions for nurses are needed. This study explored barriers and resources associated with health behaviors in nurses with different stress levels and work-related behavioral tendencies and identified health behavior determinants based on the Health Action Process Approach (HAPA) model. Methods: Applying a mixed methods transformative triangulation design, n = 43 nurses filled out chronic stress (SSCS) and work-related behavior and experience patterns (German acronym AVEM) questionnaires, and participated in semi-structured interviews. With content analysis, categories of health behavior-related barriers and resources emerged. Behavior determinants (self-efficacy, outcome expectancies), health behavior, and barriers and resources were quantified via frequency and magnitude coding and interrelated with SSCS and AVEM scores to link level of health behavior with potential influencing factors. Nonparametric tests explored differences in quantified variables for SSCS and AVEM scores and 4-step-hierarchical regression analysis identified predictors for health behavior. Results: Eighty-four percent of the nurses were chronically stressed while 49% exhibited unhealthy behavioral tendencies at the workplace. 16 personal and organizational themes (six resources, ten barriers) influenced health behaviors. Stress was associated with resource frequency (p = .027) and current health behaviors (p = .07). Self-efficacy significantly explained variance in health behaviors (p = .003). Conclusion: Health promotion related barriers and resources should be considered in designing nurse health promotion campaigns. Practitioners need to individualize and tailor interventions toward stress and behavioral experiences for sustainable effects on adherence and health.
Published in: BMC Public Health, 10.1186/s12889-022-12993-5, Springer Nature