Physical working conditions and subsequent sickness absence: a record linkage follow-up study among 19-39-year-old municipal employees

M Mänty, A Kouvonen, H Nordquist, J Harkko, O Pietiläinen, J I Halonen, O Rahkonen, T Lallukka

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Abstract

Physical work exposures are associated with sickness absence among older employees. We aimed to examine if they similarly contribute to all-cause sickness absence during early and mid-careers. We used questionnaire data on physical work exposures linked to register data on sickness absence from 3542 municipal employees aged 19-39 years. Follow-up for the number of sickness absence days was 12 months. Exposures to physical workload, occupational environmental hazards, and sedentary work were divided into quartiles. In addition, duration of daily exposure to heavy work was included. Negative binomial regression models were used. Higher exposure to physical workload or hazardous exposures was associated with a higher number of sickness absence days. The age and gender adjusted rate ratios for sickness absence days among the participants whose exposure to physical workload was in the highest exposure quartile were 2.1 (95% CI 1.8‒2.5) compared with those whose exposure was in the lowest quartile. In addition, rate ratios for sickness absence days among participants who reported that they do heavy physical work 1.1‒2.0 h, 2.1‒4.0 h or over 4 h daily were 1.6 (1.3‒1.9), 1.5 (1.3‒1.8) and 1.7 (1.5‒2.1), respectively, compared with those who reported not doing physical work. Further adjustment for lifestyle factors or health characteristics attenuated the associations only slightly. Exposure to physically demanding work is associated with a higher number of sickness absence days among municipal employees below 40 years of age. Physical working conditions should be considered when aiming to support later work ability.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational archives of occupational and environmental health
Early online date23 Oct 2021
DOIs
Publication statusEarly online date - 23 Oct 2021

Keywords

  • Cohort study
  • Sick leave
  • Young employees
  • Public sector
  • Occupational exposures

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