"The Guardian" published an article in which, citing a qualitative survey promoted by the union of British and Irish chefs, the negative effects of stress on chefs' health were highlighted for the first time. But is being a chef really so stressful? And above all, what is the relationship between psychological stress and the presence of occupational diseases in the entire population of chefs?
A study promoted by the Italian Federation of Chefs (FIC) and directed by the Institute for Biomedical Research and Innovation of the National Research Council (Cnr-Irib) of Cosenza tried to answer these questions, in which the University participated "Magna Graecia" of Catanzaro, published in the Frontiers Public Health magazine.
"The chef's job is one of those most exposed to health risks due to stress, but no one has ever provided a quantitative scientific assessment of the risks and their characteristics", explains Antonio Cerasa, researcher at Cnr-Irib and research coordinator . “Our study has defined for the first time, in a quantitative way, the link between stress, work and health in the category of Italian chefs, using an analytical approach to the statistical data resulting from the elaboration of the material made available by the FIC. In fact, to carry out this epidemiological research, an app was developed where all the members of the Federation could connect and, by filling in demographic forms and psychological tests, participate in the scientific investigation ".
“Occupational diseases are one of the topics for the attention of the FIC. The stress in the kitchen is actually very high, caused by psychological tensions and pressures due mainly to the amount of work, to the many hours spent in the kitchen in a space often small, crowded and too hot, at a level of concentration that must always be at the maximum, to the number of employees to be managed, but above all to the constant judgment of the client to whom it is subjected ", declares Rocco Pozzulo, president of the FIC which has almost 20 thousand members throughout Italy.
"The study involved 710 chefs (with these average characteristics: 88% males, age 44.4 years, body-mass-index: 28.5, years of work 24.9, hours of work weekly 66.4), whose questionnaires were used to evaluate whether occupational stress risk is related to the type of work and how it can affect health. The analysis model included individual characteristics (such as age, gender or body-mass-index) and work-related variables such as the professional category (eg, head / executive / dishwasher / freelance), or the length of the working day ", he adds Antonio Cerasa.
“To quantify the causal link between the variables involved, a statistical model called Structural equation modeling (Sem) was used, which allows you to test various hypotheses simultaneously. After an initial phase of validation of the tests, the model found that the only two factors significantly associated with the presence of high levels of stress and organic diseases affecting the skeletal muscle and cardio-circulatory systems are the years of service and the number of weekly working hours ", explains Marco Tullio Liuzza, Professor of Psychometrics at the" Magna Graecia "University.
"Data processing showed that 47% of chefs reported at least two or more health problems in working life, and the relationship between work variables and health status is mediated by the high levels of professional stress present in the population of cooks in a percentage between 13.8% and 24.9%. This figure is relevant because the negative effects of excessive working hours on health have already been reported in other job categories such as surgeons, ambulance personnel, white-collar workers, policemen, military personnel. Thanks to this research, it is therefore confirmed that even in the category of chefs, exceeding 60 hours of work per week is a strong predictor of organic diseases ", concludes Cerasa.