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Logo of oenvmedOccupational and Environmental MedicineVisit this articleSubmit a manuscriptReceive email alertsContact usBMJ
Occup Environ Med. 2000 May; 57(5): 298–315.
PMCID: PMC1739955

Reactivity and recovery from different types of work measured by catecholamines and cortisol: a systematic literature overview


OBJECTIVES—To review occupational health, laboratory, and sports literature on neuroendocrine reactivity and recovery from mental, combined mental and physical, or physical tasks.
METHODS—A systematic literature search was performed in eight databases. Studies with catecholamines or cortisol as effect variables measured in blood, urine, or saliva were included.
RESULTS—After application of inclusion and exclusion criteria, 77 studies from the initial 559 identified were taken into account. In occupational settings it was found that relatively few studies were conclusive about recovery, which formed a contrast with sports research. For reactivity and recovery up to 1 hour after performing the task, half of the studies considered physical tasks and more than two thirds showed incomplete recovery compared with baseline excretion of catecholamines and cortisol. Recovery extending to 3 days after the task was performed was often incomplete for cortisol after combined mentally and physically demanding tasks, and less often after solely mental or physical tasks. This type of recovery was more often incomplete for adrenaline (epinephrine) than for noradrenaline (norepinephrine), which was the case after mental as well as combined mental and physical tasks.
CONCLUSIONS—The results from laboratory and sports research may be transferable to some occupations, but more research is needed on the course of recovery relative to health effects in occupational settings.

Keywords: neuroendocrine reactivity; neuroendocrine recovery; occupational task

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