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1.  Work disability benefits due to musculoskeletal disorders among Brazilian private sector workers 
BMJ Open  2011;1(1):e000003.
Objective
To evaluate the prevalence and characteristics of disability benefits due to musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) granted to Brazilian private sector workers.
Methods
This was a population-based epidemiological study of MSD-related benefits among registered private sector workers (n=32 959 329). The prevalence (benefits/10 000 workers/year) of work disability benefits was calculated by gender, age, state, Human Development Index (HDI), economic activity, MSD type and work-relatedness.
Results
The prevalence of MSD-related benefits in Brazil among registered private sector workers in 2008 was 93.6/10 000 workers. The prevalence increased with age, and was higher for women (112.2) than for men (88.1), although the former had shorter benefit duration. The gender-adjusted prevalence by state varied from 16.6 to 90.3 for non-work-related, and from 7.8 to 59.6 for work-related benefits. The Brazilian states with a high–very high HDI had the highest prevalence. The top four most common types of MSD-related benefits were due to back pain, intervertebral disc disorders, sinovitis/tenosynovitis and shoulder disorders.
Conclusion
MSD is a frequent cause of work disability in Brazil. There were differences in prevalence among economic activities and between states grouped by HDI. This study demonstrates that further evaluation of the contributing factors associated with MSD-related disability benefits is required. Factors that should be considered include production processes, political organisation, socioeconomic and educational characteristics, the compensation and recording systems, and employee–employer power relationships. These factors may play an important role in the prevalence of MSD-related disability benefits, especially in countries with large socioeconomic iniquities such as Brazil.
Article summary
Article focus
Musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) are a major cause of disability worldwide.
The prevalence and distribution of MSD among Brazilian workers are not well known.
This article evaluates the prevalence and characteristics of disability benefits due to MSD granted to Brazilian private sector workers.
Key messages
The prevalence of MSD-related benefits among registered Brazilian private sector workers in 2008 was 93.6/10 000 workers, with the top four most common benefits being due to back pain, intervertebral disc disorders, sinovitis/tenosynovitis and shoulder disorders.
This study demonstrates that further evaluation of the contributing factors associated with MSD-related disability benefits is required and should assess the production processes, political organisation, socioeconomic and educational characteristics, the compensation and recording systems, and employee–employer power relationships.
These factors may play an important role in the prevalence of MSD-related disability benefits, especially in countries with large socioeconomic iniquities such as Brazil.
Strengths and limitations of this study
All employed workers with a registered job in the private sector were analysed (32 959 329 workers). Prevalence was adjusted by gender, age and category of benefit (work-related or non-work-related). This initial descriptive study provides some baseline data on the magnitude of the problem. The data may be used for future comparisons and to evaluate the effectiveness of prevention programs. The strength of this paper is that it supplies information which could be useful in the implementation of an occupational health policy to reduce MSD. One of the limitations is that it only includes data from registered workers although there are many non-registered workers in Brazil. Another limitation is that this study depends on the quality of the data recorded by the National Insurer (NI) of the Brazilian Ministry of Social Insurance.
doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2011-000003
PMCID: PMC3191405  PMID: 22021719
2.  Work-life conflict and musculoskeletal disorders: a cross-sectional study of an unexplored association 
Background
The health consequences of work-family or rather work-life conflict (WLC) have been studied by numerous researchers. The work-related causes of musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) are also well explored. And stress (at work) has been found to be a consequence of WLC as well as a cause of MSD. But very little is known about a potential association between WLC and MSD and the possible mediating role of stress in this relationship.
Methods
Survey data collected in 2007 among the workforces of four large companies in Switzerland were used for this study. The study population covered 6091 employees. As the exposure variable and hypothesized risk factor for MSD, WLC was measured by using a 10-item scale based on an established 18-item scale on work-family conflict. The outcome variables used as indicators of MSD were (low) back pain and neck/shoulder pain. Stress as the assumed intervening variable was assessed by a validated single-item measure of general stress perception. Correlation coefficients (r), standardized regression coefficients (β) and multiple adjusted odds ratios (OR) were calculated as measures of association.
Results
WLC was found to be quite strongly associated with MSD (β = .21). This association turned out to be substantially confounded by physical strain at work, workload and job autonomy and was considerably reduced but far from being completely eliminated after adjusting for general stress as another identified risk factor of MSD and a proven strong correlate of WLC (r = .44). A significant and relevant association still remained (β = .10) after having controlled for all considered covariates. This association could be fully attributed to only one direction of WLC, namely the work-to-life conflict. In subsequent analyses, a clear gradient between this WLC direction and both types of MSD was found, and proved to be consistent for both men and women. Employees who were most exposed to such work-to-life conflict were also most at risk and showed a fivefold higher prevalence rate (19%-42%) and also an up to sixfold increased relative risk (OR = 3.8-6.3) of suffering greatly from these types of MSD compared with the least exposed reference group showing very low WLC in this direction. Including stress in the regression models again reduced the strength of the association significantly (OR = 1.9-4.1), giving an indication for a possible indirect effect of WLC on MSD mediated by stress.
Conclusion
Future research and workplace interventions for the prevention of MSD need to consider WLC as an important stressor, and the MSD risk factor identified in this study.
doi:10.1186/1471-2474-12-60
PMCID: PMC3073966  PMID: 21410950
3.  Associations between partial sickness benefit and disability pensions: initial findings of a Finnish nationwide register study 
BMC Public Health  2010;10:361.
Background
Timely return to work after longterm sickness absence and the increased use of flexible work arrangements together with partial health-related benefits are tools intended to increase participation in work life. Although partial sickness benefit and partial disability pension are used in many countries, prospective studies on their use are largely lacking. Partial sickness benefit was introduced in Finland in 2007. This register study aimed to investigate the use of health-related benefits by subjects with prolonged sickness absence, initially on either partial or full sick leave.
Methods
Representative population data (13 375 men and 16 052 women either on partial or full sick leave in 2007) were drawn from national registers and followed over an average of 18 months. The registers provided information on the study outcomes: diagnoses and days of payment for compensated sick leaves, and the occurrence of disability pension. Survival analysis and multinomial regression were carried out using sociodemographic variables and prior sickness absence as covariates.
Results
Approximately 60% of subjects on partial sick leave and 30% of those on full sick leave had at least one recurrent sick leave over the follow up. A larger proportion of those on partial sick leave (16%) compared to those on full sick leave (1%) had their first recurrent sick leave during the first month of follow up. The adjusted risks of the first recurrent sick leave were 1.8 and 1.7 for men and women, respectively, when subjects on partial sick leave were compared with those on full sick leave. There was no increased risk when those with their first recurrent sick leave in the first month were excluded from the analyses. The risks of a full disability pension were smaller and risks of a partial disability pension approximately two-fold among men and women initially on partial sick leave, compared to subjects on full sick leave.
Conclusions
This is the first follow up study of the newly adopted partial sickness benefit in Finland. The results show that compared to full sick leave, partial sick leave - when not followed by lasting return to work - is more typically followed by partial disability pension and less frequently by full disability pension. It is anticipated that the use of partial benefits in connection with part-time participation in work life will have favourable effects on future disability pension rates in Finland.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-10-361
PMCID: PMC2912806  PMID: 20573207
4.  Partial sick leave associated with disability pension: propensity score approach in a register-based cohort study 
BMJ Open  2012;2(6):e001752.
Objectives
To support sustainability of the welfare society enhanced work retention is needed among those with impaired work ability. Partial health-related benefits have been introduced for this target. The aim was to estimate the effects of partial sick leave on transition to disability pension applying propensity score methods.
Design
Register-based cohort study.
Setting
Sample from the national sickness insurance registers representative of the Finnish working population (full-time workers) with long-term sickness absence due to musculoskeletal disorders, mental disorders, traumas or tumours.
Participants
All recipients of partial or full sickness benefit whose sick leave period had ended between 1 May and 31 December 2007 were included. The sample was limited to four most prevalent diagnostic groups—mental and musculoskeletal disorders, traumas and tumours. The total sample consisted of 1047 subjects on partial sick leave (treatment group) and 28 380 subjects on full sick leave (control group). A subsample (1017 and 25 249 subjects, respectively) was formed to improve the comparability of the two groups.
Outcome measures
A three-category measure and a binary measure for the occurrence of disability pension on the last day of 2008 were computed.
Results
Partial sickness benefit reduced the risk (change in absolute risk) of full disability pension by 6% and increased the risk of partial disability pension by 8% compared with full sick leave. The effects did not differ markedly for the two main diagnostic groups of musculoskeletal and mental disorders. In men, the use of full disability pension was reduced by 10% with a 5% increase in the use of partial disability pension, while in women the effects were close to those of the total sample.
Conclusions
Our findings suggest that combining work with partial sick leave may provide one means to increase work retention at population level. The use of partial sick leave could be encouraged among men.
doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2012-001752
PMCID: PMC3533026  PMID: 23144260
Epidemiology; Public Health; Population Registers
5.  Effectiveness of early part-time sick leave in musculoskeletal disorders 
Background
The importance of staying active instead of bed rest has been acknowledged in the management of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). This emphasizes the potential benefits of adjusting work to fit the employee's remaining work ability. Despite part-time sick leave being an official option in many countries, its effectiveness has not been studied yet. We have designed a randomized controlled study to assess the health effects of early part-time sick leave compared to conventional full-day sick leave. Our hypothesis is that if work time is temporarily reduced and work load adjusted at the early stages of disability, employees with MSDs will have less disability days and faster return to regular work duties than employees on a conventional sick leave.
Methods/Design
The study population will consist of 600 employees, who seek medical advice from an occupational physician due to musculoskeletal pain. The inclusion requires that they have not been on a sick leave for longer than 14 days prior to the visit. Based on the physician's judgement, the severity of the symptoms must indicate a need for conventional sick leave, but the employee is considered to be able to work part-time without any additional risk. Half of the employees are randomly allocated to part-time sick leave group and their work time is reduced by 40–60%, whereas in the control group work load is totally eliminated with conventional sick leave. The main outcomes are the number of days from the initial visit to return to regular work activities, and the total number of sick leave days during 12 and 24 months of follow-up. The costs and benefits as well as the feasibility of early part-time sick leave will also be evaluated.
Conclusion
This is the first randomised trial to our knowledge on the effectiveness of early part-time sick leave compared to conventional full-time sick leave in the management of MSDs. The data collection continues until 2011, but preliminary results on the feasibility of part-time sick leave will be available already in 2008. The increased knowledge will assist in better decision making process regarding the management of disability related to MSDs.
Trial Registration
International Standard Randomised Controlled Trial Number Register, register number ISRCTN30911719
doi:10.1186/1471-2474-9-23
PMCID: PMC2267790  PMID: 18294405
6.  Promoting work ability in a structured national rehabilitation program in patients with musculoskeletal disorders: outcomes and predictors in a prospective cohort study 
Background
Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are a major reason for impaired work productivity and sick leave. In 2009, a national rehabilitation program was introduced in Sweden to promote work ability, and patients with MSDs were offered multimodal rehabilitation. The aim of this study was to analyse the effect of this program on health related quality of life, function, sick leave and work ability.
Methods
We conducted a prospective, observational cohort study including 406 patients with MSDs attending multimodal rehabilitation. Changes over time and differences between groups were analysed concerning function, health related quality of life, work ability and sick leave. Regression analyses were used to study the outcome variables health related quality of life (measured with EQ-5D), and sick leave.
Results
Functional ability and health related quality of life improved after rehabilitation. Patients with no sick leave/disability pension the year before rehabilitation, improved health related quality of life more than patients with sick leave/disability pension the year before rehabilitation (p = 0.044). During a period of −/+ four months from rehabilitation start, patients with EQ-5D ≥ 0.5 at rehabilitation start, reduced their net sick leave days with 0.5 days and patients with EQ-5D <0.5 at rehabilitation start, increased net sick leave days with 1.5 days (p = 0.019). Factors negatively associated with sick leave at follow-up were earlier episodes of sick leave/disability pension, problems with exercise tolerance functions and mobility after rehabilitation. Higher age was associated with not being on sick leave at follow-up and reaching an EQ-5D ≥ 0.5 at follow-up. Severe pain after rehabilitation, problems with exercise tolerance functions, born outside of Sweden and full-time sick leave/disability pension the year before rehabilitation were all associated with an EQ-5D level < 0.5 at follow-up.
Conclusions
Patients with MSDs participating in a national work promoting rehabilitation program significantly improved their health related quality of life and functional ability, especially those with no sick leave. This shows that vocational rehabilitation programs in a primary health care setting are effective. The findings of this study can also be valuable for more appropriate patient selection for rehabilitation programs for MSDs.
doi:10.1186/1471-2474-14-57
PMCID: PMC3626929  PMID: 23384339
Sick leave; Musculoskeletal pain; Multimodal rehabilitation; Health related quality of life; Function
7.  Occupational disability caused by dizziness and vertigo: a register-based prospective study 
Background
Despite the magnitude of dizziness/vertigo in primary health care, prospective studies are scarce, and few studies have focused on vocational consequences. Using the International Classification of Primary Health Care (ICPC), GPs have two alternative diagnoses, H82 (vertiginous syndrome) and N17 (vertigo/dizziness), when issuing sickness certificates to these patients.
Aim
To assess the incidence of dizziness/vertigo in long-term sickness absence and to identify sociodemographic and diagnostic predictors for transition into disability pension.
Design of study
Register-based prospective study, 5-year follow-up.
Setting
All individuals in Norway eligible for sickness absence in 1997 (registered employed or unemployed).
Method
The risk of disability pension was assessed with Cox proportional hazards analysis, with medical and sociodemographic information as independent variables, stratified for sex.
Results
Six-hundred and ninety-four women and 326 men were included. Dizziness/vertigo made up 0.9% of long-term sickness absence among women and 0.7% among men. Among both women and men, 41% was certified with H82 and 59% with N17: 23% of women and 24% of men obtained a disability pension. Age was the strongest predictor for obtaining a disability pension. Subjects with only basic education had an almost doubled risk of obtaining a disability pension compared to the highest educational group. Women with H82 had significantly higher risk for obtaining a disability pension than those with N17. The difference increased after adjustment for sociodemographic variables. Sex had no effect when all other variables were controlled for.
Conclusion
Dizziness/vertigo is an infrequent cause of certified sickness absence, but long-term sickness absentees with dizziness/vertigo have a considerable risk of obtaining a disability pension in the future.
doi:10.3399/bjgp08X330744
PMCID: PMC2529199  PMID: 18801279
disability insurance; dizziness; health insurance; risk factors; sick leave; vertigo
8.  Women’s higher likelihood of disability pension: the role of health, family and work. A 5–7 years follow-up of the Hordaland Health Study 
BMC Public Health  2012;12:720.
Background
Women’s higher risk of disability pension compared with men is found in countries with high female work participation and universal welfare schemes. The aim of the study was to examine the extent to which self-perceived health, family situation and work factors explain women’s higher risk of disability pension. We also explored how these factors influenced the gender difference across educational strata.
Methods
The population-based Hordaland Health Study (HUSK) was conducted in 1997–99 and included inhabitants born in 1953–57 in Hordaland County, Norway. The current study included 5,959 men and 6,306 women in paid work with valid information on education and self-perceived health. Follow-up data on disability pension, for a period of 5–7 years, was obtained by linking the health survey to a national registry of disability pension. Cox regression analyses were employed.
Results
During the follow-up period 99 (1.7%) men and 230 (3.6%) women were awarded disability pension, giving a twofold risk of disability pension for women compared with men. Except for a moderate impact of self-perceived health, adjustment for family situation and work factors did not influence the gender difference in risk. Repeating the analyses in strata of education, the gender difference in risk of disability pension among the highly educated was fully explained by self-perceived health and work factors. In the lower strata of education there remained a substantial unexplained gender difference in risk.
Conclusions
In a Norwegian cohort of middle-aged men and women, self-perceived health, family situation and work factors could not explain women’s higher likelihood of disability pension. However, analyses stratified by educational level indicate that mechanisms behind the gender gap in disability pension differ by educational levels. Recognizing the heterogeneity within gender may contribute to a deeper understanding of women’s higher risk of disability pension.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-12-720
PMCID: PMC3508825  PMID: 22943493
Disability pension; Cohort study; Educational status; Gender; Health; Occupational group; Risk factors
9.  Sick leave patterns in common musculoskeletal disorders – a study of doctor prescribed sick leave 
Background
Comparative data on sick leave within musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) is limited. Our objective was to give a descriptive overview of sick leave patterns in different MSDs.
Methods
Using electronic medical records, we collected information on dates and diagnostic codes for all available sick leave certificates, during 2 years (2009–2010), in the North Western part of the Skåne region in Sweden (22 public primary health care centres and two general hospitals). Using the International Classification of Diseases (ICD) 10 codes on the certificates we studied duration, age and sex distribution and recurrent periods of sick leave for six strategically chosen MSDs; low back pain (M54) disc disorders (M51), knee osteoarthritis (M17) hip osteoarthritis (M16) rheumatoid arthritis (M05-M06) and myalgia (M79).
Results
All together 20 251 sick leave periods were issued for 16 673 individuals 16–64 years of age (53% women). Out of the selected disorders, low back pain and myalgia had the shortest sick leave periods, with a mean of 26 and 27 days, respectively, while disc disorders and rheumatoid arthritis had the longest periods with a mean of 150 and 147 days. For low back pain and myalgia 27% and 26% of all sick leave was short (8–14 days) and only 11% and 13%, were long (≥90 days). For the other selected MSDs, less than 5% of the periods were short. For disc disorders, hip osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, more than 60% of the periods were long (p > 0.001). For back disorders and myalgia most periods were issued in the age groups between 40–49, with similar patterns for women and men. Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis had most periods in the age groups of 50–64, and patterns for women and men differed. Low back pain, rheumatoid arthritis and myalgia had the greatest share of recurrent sick leave (31%, 34% and 32% respectively).
Conclusion
Duration, age and sex distribution and numbers of recurrent sick leave varies considerably between different MSDs. This underscores the importance of using specified diagnosis, in sick leave research as well as in planning of treatment and rehabilitation and evaluation of prognosis.
doi:10.1186/1471-2474-15-176
PMCID: PMC4060756  PMID: 24886568
Sick leave; Musculoskeletal; Duration of sick leave; Diagnosis; Back pain; Osteoarthritis; Rheumatoid arthritis; Myalgia
10.  Work and Health, a Blind Spot in Curative Healthcare? A Pilot Study 
Introduction Most workers with musculoskeletal disorders on sick leave often consult with regular health care before entering a specific work rehabilitation program. However, it remains unclear to what extent regular healthcare contributes to the timely return to work (RTW). Moreover, several studies have indicated that it might postpone RTW. There is a need to establish the influence of regular healthcare on RTW as outcome; “Does visiting a regular healthcare provider influence the duration of sickness absence and recurrent sick leave due to musculoskeletal disorders?”. Methods A cohort of workers on sick leave for 2–6 weeks due to a-specific musculoskeletal disorders was followed for 12 months. The main outcomes for the present analysis were: duration of sickness absence till 100% return to work and recurrent sick leave after initial RTW. Cox regression analyses were conducted with visiting a general health practitioner, physical therapist, or medical specialist during the sick leave period as independent variables. Each regression model was adjusted for variables known to influence health care utilization like age, sex, diagnostic group, pain intensity, functional disability, general health perception, severity of complaints, job control, and physical load at work. Results Patients visiting a medical specialist reported higher pain intensity and more functional limitations and also had a worse health perception at start of the sick leave period compared with those not visiting a specialist. Visiting a medical specialist delayed return to work significantly (HR = 2.10; 95%CI 1.43–3.07). After approximately 8 weeks on sick leave workers visiting a physical therapist returned to work faster than other workers. A recurrent episode of sick leave during the follow up quick was initiated by higher pain intensity and more functional limitations at the moment of fully return to work. Visiting a primary healthcare provider during the sickness absence period did not influence the occurrence of a new sick leave period. Conclusion Despite the adjustment for severity of the musculoskeletal disorder, visiting a medical specialist was associated with a delayed full return to work. More attention to the factor ‘labor’ in the regular healthcare is warranted, especially for those patients experiencing substantial functional limitations due to musculoskeletal disorders.
doi:10.1007/s10926-010-9271-3
PMCID: PMC3173611  PMID: 21080214
Return to work; Work disability; Health care services; Musculoskeletal disorders
11.  Low back pain and widespread pain predict sickness absence among industrial workers 
Background
The prevalence of musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) in the aluminium industry is high, and there is a considerable work-related fraction. More knowledge about the predictors of sickness absence from MSD in this industry will be valuable in determining strategies for prevention. The aim of this study was to analyse the relative impact of body parts, psychosocial and individual factors as predictors for short- and long-term sickness absence from MSD among industrial workers.
Methods
A follow-up study was conducted among all the workers at eight aluminium plants in Norway. A questionnaire was completed by 5654 workers at baseline in 1998. A total of 3320 of these participated in the follow-up study in 2000. Cox regression analysis was applied to investigate the relative impact of MSD in various parts of the body and of psychosocial and individual factors reported in 1998 on short-term and long-term sickness absence from MSD reported in 2000.
Results
MSD accounted for 45% of all working days lost the year prior to follow-up in 2000. Blue-collar workers had significantly higher risk than white-collar workers for both short- and long-term sickness absence from MSD (long-term sickness absence: RR = 3.04, 95% CI 2.08–4.45). Widespread and low back pain in 1998 significantly predicted both short- and long-term sickness absence in 2000. In addition, shoulder pain predicted long-term sickness absence. Low social support predicted short-term sickness absence (RR = 1.28, 95% CI 1.11–1.49).
Conclusions
Reducing sickness absence from MSD among industrial workers requires focusing on the working conditions of blue-collar workers and risk factors for low back pain and widespread pain. Increasing social support in the work environment may have effects in reducing short-term sickness absence from MSD.
doi:10.1186/1471-2474-4-21
PMCID: PMC200978  PMID: 12956891
sickness absence; musculoskeletal disorders; low back pain; widespread pain; blue-collar workers; social support
12.  Gender Differences in Survival among Adult Patients Starting Antiretroviral Therapy in South Africa: A Multicentre Cohort Study 
PLoS Medicine  2012;9(9):e1001304.
Morna Cornell and colleagues investigate differences in mortality for HIV-positive men and women on antiretroviral therapy in South Africa.
Background
Increased mortality among men on antiretroviral therapy (ART) has been documented but remains poorly understood. We examined the magnitude of and risk factors for gender differences in mortality on ART.
Methods and Findings
Analyses included 46,201 ART-naïve adults starting ART between January 2002 and December 2009 in eight ART programmes across South Africa (SA). Patients were followed from initiation of ART to outcome or analysis closure. The primary outcome was mortality; secondary outcomes were loss to follow-up (LTF), virologic suppression, and CD4+ cell count responses. Survival analyses were used to examine the hazard of death on ART by gender. Sensitivity analyses were limited to patients who were virologically suppressed and patients whose CD4+ cell count reached >200 cells/µl. We compared gender differences in mortality among HIV+ patients on ART with mortality in an age-standardised HIV-negative population.
Among 46,201 adults (65% female, median age 35 years), during 77,578 person-years of follow-up, men had lower median CD4+ cell counts than women (85 versus 110 cells/µl, p<0.001), were more likely to be classified WHO stage III/IV (86 versus 77%, p<0.001), and had higher mortality in crude (8.5 versus 5.7 deaths/100 person-years, p<0.001) and adjusted analyses (adjusted hazard ratio [AHR] 1.31, 95% CI 1.22–1.41). After 36 months on ART, men were more likely than women to be truly LTF (AHR 1.20, 95% CI 1.12–1.28) but not to die after LTF (AHR 1.04, 95% CI 0.86–1.25). Findings were consistent across all eight programmes. Virologic suppression was similar by gender; women had slightly better immunologic responses than men. Notably, the observed gender differences in mortality on ART were smaller than gender differences in age-standardised death rates in the HIV-negative South African population. Over time, non-HIV mortality appeared to account for an increasing proportion of observed mortality. The analysis was limited by missing data on baseline HIV disease characteristics, and we did not observe directly mortality in HIV-negative populations where the participating cohorts were located.
Conclusions
HIV-infected men have higher mortality on ART than women in South African programmes, but these differences are only partly explained by more advanced HIV disease at the time of ART initiation, differential LTF and subsequent mortality, and differences in responses to treatment. The observed differences in mortality on ART may be best explained by background differences in mortality between men and women in the South African population unrelated to the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary.
Editors' Summary
Background
About 34 million people (most living in low- and middle-income countries) are currently infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. HIV destroys CD4 lymphocytes and other immune system cells, leaving infected individuals susceptible to other infections. Early in the AIDS epidemic, most HIV-infected people died within 10 years of becoming infected. Then, in 1996, antiretroviral therapy (ART)—cocktails of drugs that keep HIV in check—became available. For people living in affluent countries, HIV/AIDS became a chronic condition. However, ART was expensive and, for people living in poorer countries, HIV/AIDS remained a fatal illness. In 2003, this situation was declared a global emergency, and governments and international agencies began to implement plans to increase ART coverage in resource-limited countries. Since then, ART programs in these countries have grown rapidly. In South Africa, for example, about 52% of the 3.14 million adults in need of ART were receiving an ART regimen recommended by the World Health Organization by the end of 2010.
Why Was This Study Done?
The outcomes of ART programs in resource-limited countries need to be evaluated thoroughly so that these programs can be optimized. One area of concern to ART providers is that of gender differences in survival among patients receiving treatment. In sub-Saharan Africa, for example, men are more likely to die than women while receiving ART. This gender difference in mortality may arise because men initiating ART in many African ART programs have more advanced HIV disease than women (early ART initiation is associated with better outcomes than late initiation) or because men are more likely to be lost to follow-up than women (failure to continue treatment is associated with death). Other possible explanations for gender differentials in mortality on ART include gender differences in immunologic and virologic responses to treatment (increased numbers of immune system cells and reduced amounts of virus in the blood, respectively). In this multicenter cohort study, the researchers examine the size of, and risk factors for, gender differences in mortality on ART in South Africa by examining data collected from adults starting ART at International Epidemiologic Databases to Evaluate AIDS South Africa (IeDEA-SA) collaboration sites.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers analyzed data collected from 46,201 ART-naïve adults who started ART between 2002 and 2009 in eight IeDEA-SA ART programs. At ART initiation, men had a lower CD4 count on average and were more likely to have advanced HIV disease than women. During the study, after allowing for factors likely to affect mortality such as HIV disease stage at initiation, men on ART had a 31% higher risk of dying than women. Men were more likely to be lost to follow-up than women, but men and women who were lost to follow-up were equally likely to die. Women had a slightly better immunological response to ART than men but virologic suppression was similar in both genders. Importantly, in analyses of mortality limited to individuals who were virologically suppressed at 12 months and to patients who had a good immunological response to ART, men still had a higher risk of death than women. However, the gender differences in mortality on ART were smaller than the gender differences in age-standardized mortality in the HIV-negative South African population.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These analyses show that among South African patients initiating ART between 2002 and 2009, men were more likely to die than women but that this gender difference in mortality on ART cannot be completely explained by gender differences in baseline characteristics, loss to follow-up, or virologic and/or immunologic responses. Instead, the observed gender differences in mortality can best be explained by background gender differences in mortality in the whole South African population. Because substantial amounts of data were missing in this study (for example, HIV disease stage was not available for all the patients), these findings need to be interpreted cautiously. Moreover, similar studies need to be done in other settings to investigate whether they are generalizable to the South African national ART program and to other countries. If confirmed, however, these findings suggest that the root causes of gender differences in mortality on ART may be unrelated to HIV/AIDS or to the characteristics of ART programs.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001304.
Information is available from the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases on HIV infection and AIDS
Information on the treatment of HIV/AIDS in South Africa is available from the Southern African HIV Clinicians Society
NAM/aidsmap provides basic information about HIV/AIDS and summaries of recent research findings on HIV care and treatment
Information is available from Avert, an international AIDS charity on many aspects of HIV/AIDS, including information on HIV/AIDS treatment and care, and on HIV/AIDS in South Africa (in English and Spanish)
WHO provides information about universal access to AIDS treatment (in several languages); its 2010 ART guidelines can be downloaded
Information about the IeDEA-SA collaboration is available
The Treatment Action Campaign provides information on antiretroviral therapy and South African HIV statistics
Patient stories about living with HIV/AIDS are available through Avert; the nonprofit website Healthtalkonline also provides personal stories about living with HIV, including stories about taking anti-HIV drugs and the challenges of anti-HIV drugs
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001304
PMCID: PMC3433409  PMID: 22973181
13.  Health problems and disability in long-term sickness absence: ICF coding of medical certificates 
BMC Public Health  2011;11:860.
Background
The purpose of this study was to test the feasibility of International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) and to explore the distribution, including gender differences, of health problems and disabilities as reflected in long-term sickness absence certificates.
Methods
A total of 433 patients with long sick-listing periods, 267 women and 166 men, were included in the study. All certificates exceeding 28 days of sick-listing sent to the local office of the Swedish Social Insurance Administration of a municipality in the Stockholm area were collected during four weeks in 2004-2005. ICD-10 medical diagnosis codes in the certificates were retrieved and free text information on disabilities in body function, body structure or activity and participation were coded according to ICF short version.
Results
In 89.8% of the certificates there were descriptions of disabilities that readily could be classified according to ICF. In a reliability test 123/131 (94%) items of randomly chosen free text information were identically classified by two of the authors. On average 2.4 disability categories (range 0-9) were found per patient; the most frequent were 'Sensation of pain' (35.1% of the patients), 'Emotional functions' (34.1%), 'Energy and drive functions' (22.4%), and 'Sleep functions' (16.9%). The dominating ICD-10 diagnostic groups were 'Mental and behavioural disorders' (34.4%) and 'Diseases of the musculoskeletal system and connective tissue' (32.8%). 'Reaction to severe stress and adjustment disorders' (14.7%), and 'Depressive episode' (11.5%) were the most frequent diagnostic codes. Disabilities in mental functions and activity/participation were more commonly described among women, while disabilities related to the musculoskeletal system were more frequent among men.
Conclusions
Both ICD-10 diagnoses and ICF categories were dominated by mental and musculoskeletal health problems, but there seems to be gender differences, and ICF classification as a complement to ICD-10 could provide a better understanding of the consequences of diseases and how individual patients can cope with their health problems. ICF is feasible for secondary classifying of free text descriptions of disabilities stated in sick-leave certificates and seems to be useful as a complement to ICD-10 for sick-listing management and research.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-860
PMCID: PMC3229614  PMID: 22078637
14.  Increase in sickness absence with psychiatric diagnosis in Norway: a general population-based epidemiologic study of age, gender and regional distribution 
BMC Medicine  2006;4:19.
Background
The aim of this study was to assess the incidence of sickness absence with psychiatric diagnoses from 1994–2000, and the distribution across gender, age groups, diagnostic groups and regions in a general population.
Methods
The population at risk was defined as all individuals aged 16–66 years who were entitled to sickness benefits in 1994, 1996, 1998 and 2000 (n = 2,282,761 in 2000). All individuals with a full-time disability pension were excluded. The study included approximately 77% of the Norwegian population aged 16–66 years. For each year, the study base started on 1 January and ended on 31 December. Individuals that were sick-listed for more than 14/16 consecutive days with a psychiatric diagnosis on their medical certificate were selected as cases. Included in this study were data for Norway, the capital city Oslo and five regions in the southeast of the country.
Results
Sickness absence with psychiatric diagnoses increased in all age groups, in women and men, and in all regions. At the national level, the cumulative incidence increased in women from 1.7% in 1994 to 4.6% in 2000, and in men from 0.8% in 1994 to 2.2% in 2000. The highest cumulative incidence was found in middle-aged women and men (30–59 years). Women had a higher incidence than men in all stratification groups. The cumulative incidences in 2000 varied between 4.6% to 5.6% in women in the different regions, and for men the corresponding figures were 2.1% to 3.2%. Throughout the four years studied, women in Oslo had more than twice as high incidence levels of sickness absence with alcohol and drug diagnoses as the country as a whole. There were some differences between regions in sickness absence with specific psychiatric diagnoses, but they were small and most comparisons were non-significant.
Conclusion
Sickness absence with psychiatric diagnoses increased between 1994 and 2000 in Norway. The increase was highest in the middle-aged, and in women. Few regional differences were found. That the increase pervaded all stratification groups supports general explanations of the increase, such as changes in attitudes to psychiatric disorders in both patients and doctors, and increased mental distress probably associated with societal changes at a more structural level.
doi:10.1186/1741-7015-4-19
PMCID: PMC1601961  PMID: 16923198
15.  Musculoskeletal disorders in shipyard industry: prevalence, health care use, and absenteeism 
Background
It is unclear whether the well-known risk factors for the occurrence of musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) also play an important role in the determining consequences of MSD in terms of sickness absence and health care use.
Methods
A cross-sectional study was conducted among 853 shipyard employees. Data were collected by questionnaire on physical and psychosocial workload, need for recovery, perceived general health, occurrence of musculoskeletal complaints, and health care use during the past year. Retrospective data on absenteeism were also available from the company register.
Results
In total, 37%, 22%, and 15% of employees reported complaints of low back, shoulder/neck, and hand/wrist during the past 12 months, respectively. Among all employees with at least one MSD, 27% visited a physician at least once and 20% took at least one period of sick leave. Various individual and work-related factors were associated with the occurrence of MSD. Health care use and absenteeism were strongest influenced by chronicity of musculoskeletal complaints and comorbidity with other musculoskeletal complaints and, to a lesser extent, by work-related factors.
Conclusion
In programmes aimed at preventing the unfavourable consequences of MSD in terms of sickness absence and health care use it is important to identify the (individual) factors that determine the development of chronicity of complaints. These factors may differ from the well-know risk factors for the occurrence of MSD that are targeted in primary prevention.
doi:10.1186/1471-2474-7-88
PMCID: PMC1676002  PMID: 17125504
16.  Diagnosis‐specific sick leave as a risk marker for disability pension in a Swedish population 
Objective
To investigate diagnosis‐specific sick leave as a risk marker for subsequent disability pension.
Design
A prospective population based cohort study. Exposure to a new medically certified sick leave episode of more than seven days by diagnosis during 1985 was examined in relation to incident cause‐specific disability pension through 1996.
Participants
The total non‐retired population of one Swedish county aged 16 to 49 years, alive and not in receipt of a disability pension at the end of 1985 (176 629 persons; 51% men).
Main results
To eliminate confounding by sick leaves that translate into a disability pension, the follow up period for disability pension was started five years after the assessment of sick leave. After adjustment for demographic characteristics, the risk of disability pension from mental disorders was 14.1 times higher (95% confidence interval (CI), 12.1 to 16.4) for those with sick leave for mental disorders than for those with no sick leave. The corresponding hazard ratio for sick leave and disability pension within diagnostic category was 5.7 (95% CI, 5.3 to 6.2) for musculoskeletal diseases and 13.0 (7.7 to 21.8) for gastrointestinal diseases. Irrespective of diagnoses, the hazard ratio for sick leave and disability pension was 3.0 (2.9 to 3.1).
Conclusions
Sick leave may provide an important risk marker for identifying groups at high risk of a disability pension, especially for psychiatric diagnoses.
doi:10.1136/jech.2006.055426
PMCID: PMC2652975  PMID: 17873230
disability; pensions; ill health retirement; sickness absence; mental health
17.  Disability pension among young women in Sweden, with special emphasis on family structure: a dynamic cohort study 
BMJ Open  2012;2(3):e000840.
Objectives
The influence of family structure on the risk of going on disability pension (DP) was investigated among young women by analysing a short-term and long-term effect, controlling for potential confounding and the ‘healthy mother effect’.
Design and participants
This dynamic cohort study comprised all women born in Sweden between 1960 and 1979 (1.2 million), who were 20–43 years of age during follow-up. Their annual data were retrieved from national registers for the years 1993–2003. For this period, data on family structure and potential confounders were related to the incidence of DP the year after the exposure assessment. Using a modified version of the COX proportional hazard regression, we took into account changes in the study variables of individuals over the years. In addition, a 5-year follow-up was used.
Results
Cohabiting working women with children showed a decreased risk of DP in a 1-year perspective compared with cohabiting working women with no children, while the opposite was indicated in the 5-year follow-up. Lone working women with children had an increased risk of DP in both the short-term and long-term perspective. The risk of DP tended to increase with the number of children for both cohabiting and lone working women in the 5-year follow-up.
Conclusions
The study suggests that parenthood contributes to increasing the risk of going on DP among young women, which should be valuable knowledge to employers and other policy makers. It remains to be analysed to what extent the high numbers of young women exiting from working life may be counteracted by (1) extended gender equality, (2) fewer work hours among fathers and mothers of young children and (3) by financial support to lone women with children.
Article summary
Article focus
Explanations of the increasing rate of DP in young women in European countries.
High demands linked to family and work situation was expected to be a contributing factor.
Key messages
Parenthood contributed to an increased risk of going on DP among young women. Lone working women with children had an increased risk of DP in both a 1- and 5-year perspective.
Cohabiting working women with children had a lower risk of DP than other cohabiting women in a 1-year perspective, while the opposite was shown in a 5-year follow-up.
The number of children among working women tended to increase the risk of DP 5 years later.
Strengths and limitations of this study
High representativity and statistical precision due to complete coverage of the study group.
The possibility to utilise different time spans of follow-up, a 1-year follow-up focusing the family situation just before going on DP and a longer follow-up showing the association between family structure and risk of DP 5 years later.
The possibility to take into account the changes of family and work situation over time and to adjust for the time-dependent changes of the confounding factors considered.
Lack of information on the diagnoses of DP.
Lack of information on full time or part time work.
The generalisability is restricted to countries with a welfare system similar to that of Sweden, although the knowledge could also be a pointer for other countries developing or changing their welfare system. A similar study based on men is warranted.
doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2012-000840
PMCID: PMC3367147  PMID: 22649174
18.  Sickness absence and concurrent low back and neck–shoulder pain: results from the MUSIC-Norrtälje study 
European Spine Journal  2006;16(5):631-638.
In Sweden, musculoskeletal disorders, in particular low back disorders (LBD) and neck–shoulder disorders (NSD) constitute by far the most common disorders, causing sick leave and early retirement. Studies that compare sickness absence in individuals with LBD and individuals with NSD are lacking. Moreover, it is likely that having concurrent complaints from the low back region and the neck–shoulder region could influence sickness absence. The purpose of the present study was to explore potential differences in sickness absence and in long-term sickness absence during a 5-year period, 1995–2001, among individuals with (1) solely LBD, (2) solely NSD, and (3) concurrent LBD and NSD. The present study was based on 817 subjects from the MUSIC-Norrtälje study, whom were working at baseline and whom at both baseline and follow-up reported LBD and/or NSD. Three groups were identified based on pain and pain-related disability at both baseline and follow-up: (1) solely LBD, (2) solely NSD, and (3) concurrent LBD and NSD. Subjects who did not give consistent answers at both the baseline and follow-up occasions were assigned a fourth group: (4) migrating LBD/NSD. Two outcomes were analysed: (1) prevalence of sickness absence, and (2) long-term sickness absence among those with sickness absence days. Logistic regression analysis was used to calculate odds ratios (OR) for sickness absence in the different disorder groups, taking into account confounding factors such as gender, age and other non-musculoskeletal-related disorders. In the group concurrent LBD and NSD, 59% had been sickness absent between baseline and follow up, compared to 42% in the group solely LBD, 41% in the group solely NSD, and 46% in the group migrating LBD/NSD. No difference in sickness absence was found between the group solely LBD compared to the group solely NSD [OR 0.65 (0.36–1.17)]. The adjusted OR for sickness absence in the group concurrent LBD and NSD compared to subjects with solely LBD or solely NSD was [OR 1.69 (1.14–2.51)]. The adjusted OR for having long-term sickness absence was 2.48 (95% CI = 1.32–4.66) for the group concurrent LBD and NSD. In the present study, having concurrent LBD and NSD were associated with a higher risk for sickness absence and also long-term sickness absence. This suggests that, when research on sickness absence and return to work after a period of LBD or NSD is performed, it is important to take into consideration any concurrent pain from the other spinal region. The study also implies that spinal co-morbidity is an important factor to be considered by clinicians and occupational health providers in planning treatment, or in prevention of these disorders.
doi:10.1007/s00586-006-0152-6
PMCID: PMC2213552  PMID: 16741741
Co-morbidity; Low back pain; Neck–shoulder pain; Pain-related disability; Sickness absence
19.  Cumulative incidence of sickness absence and disease burden among the newly sick-listed, a cross-sectional population-based study 
BMC Public Health  2013;13:329.
Background
Sickness absence is a public health problem with economic consequences for individuals and society. Although sickness absence and chronic diseases are correlated, few studies exist concerning the role of chronic disease in all-cause sickness absence. The aim was to assess the cumulative incidence of sickness absence and examine the accompanying burden of chronic diseases among the sick-listed.
Methods
A cross-sectional study was performed with data from 2008. Cumulative incidence of all-cause sickness absence (≥14 days) was calculated based on all newly sick-listed individuals (N = 12,543). The newly sick-listed sample and a randomized general population sample (n = 7,984) received a questionnaire (participation rates: 54% and 50%).To assess the burden of self-reported chronic diseases, standardized incidence ratios (SIR) were calculated.
Results
Estimated one-year cumulative incidence was 11.3% (95% CI: 11.2–11.3), 14.0% (13.9–14.1) for women and 8.6% (8.5–8.6) for men. Gender differences were consistent across all age groups, with highest cumulative incidence among women aged 51–64 years, 18.2% (18.0–18.5). For women, the burden of chronic disease was significantly higher for nine out of twelve disease groups, corresponding numbers for men were nine out of eleven disease groups (standardized for age and socio-economic status). Neoplastic diseases had the highest SIR with 4.3 (3.4–5.2) for women and 4.2 (2.8–5.6) for men. For psychiatric and rheumatic diseases the respective SIR’s were 1.7 for women and 1.8 for men. The remaining disease groups had an elevated risk of 20-60% (SIR 1.2–1.6). The risk of reporting a co-morbidity was increased for women (SIR 1.4 (95% CI 1.4–1.5)) and men (SIR 1.5 (1.4–1.7)) among the sick-listed.
Conclusions
Register data was used to estimate of the cumulative incidence of sickness absence in the general population. A higher burden of chronic disease among the newly sick-listed was found. Targeting long-term health problems may be an important public health strategy for reducing sickness absence.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-329
PMCID: PMC3626677  PMID: 23575311
Sickness absence; Incidence; Chronic disease; Gender; Socio-economic status
20.  Sickness absence in gender-equal companies A register study at organizational level 
BMC Public Health  2011;11:548.
Background
The differences in sickness absence between men and women in Sweden have attracted a great deal of interest nationally in the media and among policymakers over a long period. The fact that women have much higher levels of sickness absence has been explained in various ways. These explanations are contextual and one of the theories points to the lack of gender equality as an explanation. In this study, we evaluate the impact of gender equality on health at organizational level. Gender equality is measured by an index ranking companies at organizational level; health is measured as days on sickness benefit.
Methods
Gender equality was measured using the Organizational Gender Gap Index or OGGI, which is constructed on the basis of six variables accessible in Swedish official registers. Each variable corresponds to a key word illustrating the interim objectives of the "National Plan for Gender Equality", implemented by the Swedish Parliament in 2006. Health is measured by a variable, days on sickness benefit, also accessible in the same registers.
Results
We found significant associations between company gender equality and days on sickness benefit. In gender-equal companies, the risk for days on sickness benefit was 1.7 (95% CI 1.6-1.8) higher than in gender-unequal companies. The differences were greater for men than for women: OR 1.8 (95% CI 1.7-2.0) compared to OR 1.4 (95% CI 1.3-1.5).
Conclusions
Even though employees at gender-equal companies had more days on sickness benefit, the differences between men and women in this measure were smaller in gender-equal companies. Gender equality appears to alter health patterns, converging the differences between men and women.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-548
PMCID: PMC3155915  PMID: 21745375
21.  The influence of lifestyle and gender on sickness absence in Brazilian workers 
BMC Public Health  2014;14:317.
Background
Despite an increasing body of knowledge concerning gender and lifestyle factors as determinants of sickness absence in well-developed countries, the relationship between these variables has not been elucidated in emerging economic power countries, where the burden of non-communicable diseases is particularly high. This study aimed to analyze the relationships among lifestyle-related factors and sick leave and to examine whether gender differences in sickness absence can be explained by differences in socio-demographic, work and lifestyle-related factors among Brazilian workers.
Methods
In this longitudinal study with a one year follow-up among 2.150 employees of a Brazilian airline company, sick leave was the primary outcome of interest. Independent variables collected by interview at enrolment in the study were gender, age, educational level, type of work, stress, and lifestyle-related factors (body mass index, physical activity and smoking). In addition, the risk for coronary heart disease was determined based on measurement of blood pressure, total cholesterol and glucose levels. The total number of days on sick leave during 12 months follow-up was available from the company register. Logistic regression analysis was used to determine the influence of socio-demographic, type of work and lifestyle-related factors on sick leave.
Results
Younger employees, those with lower educational level, those who worked as air crew members and those with higher levels of stress were more likely to have sick leave. Body mass index and level of physical activity were not associated with sick leave. After adjustment by socio-demographic variables, increased odds for 10 or more days of sick leave were found in smokers (OR = 1.51, CI = 1.05-2.17), and ex-smokers (OR = 1.45, CI = 1.01-2.10). Women were more likely to have 10 or more days of sick leave. Gender differences were reduced mainly when adjusted for type of work (15%) and educational level (7%).
Conclusions
The higher occurrence of sick leave among women than among men was partly explained by type of work and educational level. Our results suggest that type of work, a stressful life, and smoking are important targets for health promotion in this study population.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-14-317
PMCID: PMC3983852  PMID: 24708760
Sick leave; Gender; Health behavior
22.  Gender and age differences in the recurrence of sickness absence due to common mental disorders: a longitudinal study 
BMC Public Health  2010;10:426.
Background
Common mental disorders (CMDs) are an important cause of sickness absence and long-term work disability. Although CMDs are known to have high recurrence rates, little is known about the recurrence of sickness absence due to CMDs. The aim of this study was to investigate the recurrence of sickness absence due to CMDs, including distress, adjustment disorders, depressive disorders and anxiety disorders, according to age, in male and female employees in the Netherlands.
Methods
Data on sickness absence episodes due to CMDs were obtained for 137,172 employees working in the Dutch Post and Telecommunication companies between 2001 and 2007. The incidence density (ID) and recurrence density (RD) of sickness absence due to CMDs was calculated per 1000 person-years in men and women in the age-groups of < 35 years, 35-44 years, 45-54 years, and ≥ 55 years.
Results
The ID of one episode of CMDs sickness absence was 25.0 per 1000 person-years, and the RD was 76.7 per 1000 person-years. Sickness absence due to psychiatric disorders (anxiety and depression) does not have a higher recurrence density of sickness absence due to any CMDs as compared to stress-related disorders (distress and adjustment disorders): 81.6 versus 76.0 per 1000 person-years. The ID of sickness absence due to CMDs was higher in women than in men, but the RD was similar. Recurrences were more frequent in women < 35 years and in women between 35 and 44 years of age. We observed no differences between age groups in men. Recurrences among employees with recurrent episodes occurred within 3 years in 90% of cases and the median time-to-onset of recurrence was 11 (10-13) months in men and 10 (9-12) months in women.
Conclusions
Employees who have been absent from work due to CMDs are at increased risk of recurrent sickness absence due to CMDs and should be monitored after they return to work. The RD was similar in men and in women. In women < 45 years the RD was higher than in women ≥ 45 years. In men no age differences were observed.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-10-426
PMCID: PMC2914781  PMID: 20646271
23.  Stability and change in health behaviours as predictors for disability pension: a prospective cohort study of Swedish twins 
BMC Public Health  2011;11:678.
Background
Stability or changes of health behaviours have not been studied in association with incidence of disability pension (DP). The aims were to (1) investigate if stability or changes in health behaviours predict DP due to musculoskeletal diagnosis (MSD), (2) to evaluate if an association exists for DP in general, and (3) after taking familial confounding into account.
Methods
The study sample was 16,713 like-sexed twin individuals born in Sweden between 1935-1958 (6195 complete twin pairs) who had participated in two surveys 25 years apart, were alive, and not pensioned at the time of the latest survey. Cox proportional hazards analysis was used to assess the associations (hazard ratios (HR) with 95% confidence intervals (CI)) between stability and change in health behaviours (physical activity, tobacco and alcohol use, body mass index (BMI)), and number of pain locations collected at two time points 25 years apart and the incidence of DP until 2008.
Results
During the follow-up, 1843 (11%) individuals were granted DP with 747 of these due to MSD. A higher proportion of women were granted DP than men. Increase in BMI and stable use of tobacco products were predictors for DP due to MSD (HR 1.21-1.48) and DP in general (HR 1.10-1.41). The stability in the frequency of physical activity and increased frequency of physical activity were protective factors for DP due to MSD only when accounting for familial confounding. However, the number of pain locations (stability, increase, or decrease) was the strongest predictor for future DP due to MSD (HR 3.69, CI 2.99-4.56) and DP in general (HR 2.15, CI 1.92-2.42). In discordant pair analysis, the HRs for pain were lower, indicating potential familial confounding.
Conclusions
Health behaviours in adulthood, including an increase in pain locations were associated with the incidence of DP. The association between physical activity and DP was especially related to adulthood choices or habits, i.e., the individual decision about frequency of exercising. Thus, it is important to e.g. increase public awareness of the potential beneficial effects of exercise throughout life to avoid permanent exclusion from the labour market for medical reasons.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-678
PMCID: PMC3176221  PMID: 21880151
24.  THE BURDEN OF SICKNESS ABSENCE FROM MUSCULOSKELETAL CAUSES IN GREAT BRITAIN 
Background
National initiatives to prevent and/or manage sickness absence require a database from which trends can be monitored.
Aims
To evaluate the information provided by surveillance schemes and publicly available datasets on sickness absence nationally from musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs).
Methods
A grey literature search was undertaken using the search engine Google, supplemented by leads from consultees from academia, industry, employers, lay interest groups and government. We abstracted data on the outcomes and populations covered, and made quantitative estimates of MSD-related sickness absence, overall and, where distinguishable, by sub-diagnosis. The coverage and limitations of each source were evaluated.
Results
Sources included the Labour Force Survey (LFS) and its Self-reported Work-related Illness survey module; the THOR-GP surveillance scheme; surveys by national and local government; surveys by employers’ organisations; and a database of benefit statistics. Each highlighted MSDs as a leading cause of sickness absence. Data limitations varied by source, but typically included lack of diagnostic detail and restriction of focus to selected subgroups (e.g. work-ascribed or benefit-awarded cases, specific employment sectors). Additionally, some surveys had very low response rates, were completed only by proxy respondents, or ranked only the perceived importance of MSD-related sickness absence, rather than measuring it.
Conclusions
National statistics on MSD-related sickness absence are piecemeal and incomplete. This limits capacity to plan and monitor national policies in an important area of public health. Simple low-cost additions to the LFS would improve the situation.
doi:10.1093/occmed/kqr061
PMCID: PMC3355371  PMID: 21652574
25.  Estimates of Outcomes Up to Ten Years after Stroke: Analysis from the Prospective South London Stroke Register 
PLoS Medicine  2011;8(5):e1001033.
Charles Wolfe and colleagues collected data from the South London Stroke Register on 3,373 first strokes registered between 1995 and 2006 and showed that between 20% and 30% of survivors have poor outcomes up to 10 years after stroke.
Background
Although stroke is acknowledged as a long-term condition, population estimates of outcomes longer term are lacking. Such estimates would be useful for planning health services and developing research that might ultimately improve outcomes. This burden of disease study provides population-based estimates of outcomes with a focus on disability, cognition, and psychological outcomes up to 10 y after initial stroke event in a multi-ethnic European population.
Methods and Findings
Data were collected from the population-based South London Stroke Register, a prospective population-based register documenting all first in a lifetime strokes since 1 January 1995 in a multi-ethnic inner city population. The outcomes assessed are reported as estimates of need and included disability (Barthel Index <15), inactivity (Frenchay Activities Index <15), cognitive impairment (Abbreviated Mental Test < 8 or Mini-Mental State Exam <24), anxiety and depression (Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale >10), and mental and physical domain scores of the Medical Outcomes Study 12-item short form (SF-12) health survey. Estimates were stratified by age, gender, and ethnicity, and age-adjusted using the standard European population. Plots of outcome estimates over time were constructed to examine temporal trends and sociodemographic differences. Between 1995 and 2006, 3,373 first-ever strokes were registered: 20%–30% of survivors had a poor outcome over 10 y of follow-up. The highest rate of disability was observed 7 d after stroke and remained at around 110 per 1,000 stroke survivors from 3 mo to 10 y. Rates of inactivity and cognitive impairment both declined up to 1 y (280/1,000 and 180/1,000 survivors, respectively); thereafter rates of inactivity remained stable till year eight, then increased, whereas rates of cognitive impairment fluctuated till year eight, then increased. Anxiety and depression showed some fluctuation over time, with a rate of 350 and 310 per 1,000 stroke survivors, respectively. SF-12 scores showed little variation from 3 mo to 10 y after stroke. Inactivity was higher in males at all time points, and in white compared to black stroke survivors, although black survivors reported better outcomes in the SF-12 physical domain. No other major differences were observed by gender or ethnicity. Increased age was associated with higher rates of disability, inactivity, and cognitive impairment.
Conclusions
Between 20% and 30% of stroke survivors have a poor range of outcomes up to 10 y after stroke. Such epidemiological data demonstrate the sociodemographic groups that are most affected longer term and should be used to develop longer term management strategies that reduce the significant poor outcomes of this group, for whom effective interventions are currently elusive.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Every year, 15 million people have a stroke. About 5 million of these people die within a few days, and another 5 million are left disabled. Stroke occurs when the brain's blood supply is suddenly interrupted by a blood clot blocking a blood vessel in the brain (ischemic stroke, the commonest type of stroke) or by a blood vessel in the brain bursting (hemorrhagic stroke). Deprived of the oxygen normally carried to them by the blood, the brain cells near the blockage die. The symptoms of stroke depend on which part of the brain is damaged but include sudden weakness or paralysis along one side of the body, vision loss in one or both eyes, and confusion or trouble speaking or understanding speech. Anyone experiencing these symptoms should seek immediate medical attention because prompt treatment can limit the damage to the brain. Risk factors for stroke include age (three-quarters of strokes occur in people over 65 years old), high blood pressure, and heart disease.
Why Was This Study Done?
Post-stroke rehabilitation can help individuals overcome the physical disabilities caused by stroke, and drugs and behavioral counseling can reduce the risk of a second stroke. However, people can also have problems with cognition (thinking, awareness, attention, learning, judgment, and memory) after a stroke, and they can become depressed or anxious. These “outcomes” can persist for many years, but although stroke is acknowledged as a long-term condition, most existing data on stroke outcomes are limited to a year after the stroke and often focus on disability alone. Longer term, more extensive information is needed to help plan services and to help develop research to improve outcomes. In this burden of disease analysis, the researchers use follow-up data collected by the prospective South London Stroke Register (SLSR) to provide long-term population-based estimates of disability, cognition, and psychological outcomes after a first stroke. The SLSR has recorded and followed all patients of all ages in an inner area of South London after their first-ever stroke since 1995.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
Between 1995 and 2006, the SLSR recorded 3,373 first-ever strokes. Patients were examined within 48 hours of referral to SLSR, their stroke diagnosis was verified, and their sociodemographic characteristics (including age, gender, and ethnic origin) were recorded. Study nurses and fieldworkers then assessed the patients at three months and annually after the stroke for disability (using the Barthel Index, which measures the ability to, for example, eat unaided), inactivity (using the Frenchay Activities Index, which measures participation in social activities), and cognitive impairment (using the Abbreviated Mental Test or the Mini-Mental State Exam). Anxiety and depression and the patients' perceptions of their mental and physical capabilities were also assessed. Using preset cut-offs for each outcome, 20%–30% of stroke survivors had a poor outcome over ten years of follow-up. So, for example, 110 individuals per 1,000 population were judged disabled from three months to ten years, rates of inactivity remained constant from year one to year eight, at 280 affected individuals per 1,000 survivors, and rates of anxiety and depression fluctuated over time but affected about a third of the population. Notably, levels of inactivity were higher among men than women at all time points and were higher in white than in black stroke survivors. Finally, increased age was associated with higher rates of disability, inactivity, and cognitive impairment.
What Do These Findings Mean?
Although the accuracy of these findings may be affected by the loss of some patients to follow-up, these population-based estimates of outcome measures for survivors of a first-ever stroke for up to ten years after the event provide concrete evidence that stroke is a lifelong condition with ongoing poor outcomes. They also identify the sociodemographic groups of patients that are most affected in the longer term. Importantly, most of the measured outcomes remain relatively constant (and worse than outcomes in an age-matched non-stroke-affected population) after 3–12 months, a result that needs to be considered when planning services for stroke survivors. In other words, these findings highlight the need for health and social services to provide long-term, ongoing assessment and rehabilitation for patients for many years after a stroke.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001033.
The US National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke provides information about all aspects of stroke (in English and Spanish); the US National Institute of Health SeniorHealth Web site has additional information about stroke
The Internet Stroke Center provides detailed information about stroke for patients, families, and health professionals (in English and Spanish)
The UK National Health Service Choices Web site also provides information about stroke for patients and their families
MedlinePlus has links to additional resources about stroke (in English and Spanish)
More information about the South London Stroke Register is available
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001033
PMCID: PMC3096613  PMID: 21610863

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