Long-term sickness absence from combined factors related to physical work demands: prospective cohort study

Lars L Andersen, Sannie V Thorsen, Mari-Ann Flyvholm, Andreas Holtermann

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Background: The working environment plays an important role in public health. This study investigates the risk for long-term sickness absence (LTSA) from the combination of factors related to physical work demands.

Methods: Employees (n = 22 740) of the general population (the Danish Work Environment & Health study 2012) were followed for two years in the Danish Register for Evaluation of Marginalisation. Using Cox regression analyses we determined the risk of LTSA from four factors; (i) physical work demands, (ii) physical exertion during work, (iii) fatigue after work and (iv) work-limiting pain.

Results: During follow-up 10.2% experienced LTSA. Each of the four factors increased the risk of LTSA with hazard ratios (HR) ranging from 1.30 to 1.57. Scoring high on one (30.3% of the respondents), two (24.4%), three (19.9%) and all four factors (9.2%) gradually increased the risk of LTSA (HR's of 1.39 [95% CI 1.16-1.66], 1.66 [95% CI 1.39-1.99], 1.90 [95% CI 1.57-2.29] and 3.02 [95% CI 2.47-3.68], respectively). Risk estimates remained robust in stratified analyses of age, sex and socioeconomic position. Population attributable fractions were high across all subgroups; 39% (general population), 36% (younger workers), 45% (older workers), 36% (men), 41% (women), 30% (higher socioeconomic position) and 45% (lower socioeconomic position).

Conclusion: The risk of LTSA gradually increased with number of factors related to high physical work demands, underlining the importance of targeting combined factors in risk assessment and preventive interventions.

TidsskriftEuropean Journal of Public Health
Udgave nummer5
Sider (fra-til)824-829
StatusUdgivet - 1. okt. 2018