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.
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.
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).
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.
sickness absence; musculoskeletal disorders; low back pain; widespread pain; blue-collar workers; social support
Gender differences in the prevalence and occupational consequences of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are consistently found in epidemiological studies. The study investigated whether gender differences also exist with respect to chronicity, measured as the rate of transition from sickness absence into permanent disability pension (DP).
Prospective national cohort study in Norway including all cases with a spell of sickness absence > eight weeks during 1997 certified with a MSD, 37,942 women and 26,307 men. The cohort was followed-up for five years with chronicity measured as granting of DP as the endpoint. The effect of gender was estimated in the full sample adjusting for sociodemographic factors and diagnostic distribution. Gender specific analyses were performed with the same explanatory variables. Finally, the gender difference was estimated for nine diagnostic subgroups.
The crude rate of DP was 22% for women and 18% for men. After adjusting for all sociodemographic variables, a slightly higher female risk of DP remained. However, additional adjustment for diagnostic distribution removed the gender difference completely. Having children and working full time decreased the DP risk for both genders, whereas low socioeconomic status increased the risk similarly. There was a different age effect as more women obtained a DP below the age of 50. Increased female risk of chronicity remained for myalgia/fibromyalgia, back disorders and "other/unspecified" after relevant adjustments, whereas men with neck disorders were at higher risk of chronicity.
Women with MSDs had a moderately increased risk of chronicity compared to men, when including MSDs with a traumatic background. Possible explanations are lower income, a higher proportion belonging to diagnostic subgroups with poor prognosis, and a younger age of chronicity among women. When all sociodemographic and diagnostic variables were adjusted for, no gender difference remained, except for some diagnostic subgroups.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Sick leave; Musculoskeletal pain; Multimodal rehabilitation; Health related quality of life; Function
OBJECTIVE: To investigate the effect of the workplace on the socioeconomic gradient of sickness absence. DESIGN: Comparison of the relation between socioeconomic status and employee sickness absence in three different towns. SETTINGS: The towns of Raisio, Valkeakoski, and Nokia in Finland. They are equal in size and regional social deprivation indices, located in the neighbourhood of a larger city, and produce the same services to the inhabitants. SUBJECTS: All permanent local government employees from Raisio (n = 887), Valkeakoski (n = 972), and Nokia (n = 934) on the employer's registers during 1991 to 1993. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Rates of short (1-3 days) and long (> 3 days) spells of sickness absence, irrespective of cause, and separately for infection, musculoskeletal disorder, and trauma. RESULTS: In blue collar male and female workers, compared with the same sex higher grade white collar workers, the age adjusted numbers of long sick leaves were 4.9 (95% CI 4.2, 5.8) and 2.8 (2.6, 3.1) times higher, respectively. The risk varied significantly between the towns, in men in relation to long sick leaves irrespective of cause and resulting from musculoskeletal disorders, and in women in relation to long leaves resulting from infection. The numbers of long sick leaves were 3.9 (95% CI 2.8, 5.4) times higher in blue collar male workers than in higher grade white collar male workers in Raisio, 4.9 (95% CI 3.8, 6.3) times higher in Valkeakoski, and 5.8 (95% CI 4.5, 7.5) times higher in Nokia. Sickness absence of blue collar employees differed most between the towns. The rates of long sick leaves in blue collar men were 1.46 times greater (95% CI 1.25, 1.72) in Valkeakoski and 1.85 times greater (95% CI 1.58, 2.16) in Nokia than in Raisio. In men, no significant differences were found between the towns as regards the numbers of long sick leaves of higher grade white collar male workers. The socioeconomic gradients differed more between the towns in men who had worked for four years or more in the same employment than in men who had worked for shorter periods. No consistent health gradients of socioeconomic status were evident for short sick leaves among either sex. CONCLUSIONS: In men and to a lesser extent in women, the workplace is significantly associated with health inequalities as reflected by medically certified sickness absence and the corresponding socioeconomic gradients of health.
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.
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.
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.
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.
International comparisons of sickness absence rates are difficult to make because of different national social security arrangements or recording procedures. Therefore a cross national study of sickness absence in Belgium, West Germany, and the Netherlands focused firstly on "contextual" aspects of sickness absence such as work incapacity benefit schemes, job security regulations, and the role of occupational physicians. Substantial differences were observed in regulations, local definitions, and available data. Those differences provide hypotheses for possibly divergent absence levels as well. For instance, Belgium shows the most diversified control procedures, the lowest level of sickness benefits, and the most rigid qualifying criteria for invalidity benefits. Sickness absence data were obtained from companies of four different clusters, each consisting of a comparable Belgian, German, and Dutch organisation. Conceptual, administrative, and statistical sources of bias were accounted for by selecting companies which resemble each other as to their product, production process, size, and geographical location: by using standardised definitions, absence data, and indices (observation period 1 January 1980 to 1 January 1982); and by measuring population variables to eliminate obvious explanations in terms of workforce composition. Controlled comparisons in these multiple clusters showed considerable and consistent differences in sickness absence rates. Whereas Belgian employees had 20.3 days of sickness absence (standardised for sex, age, and occupation) a year, German and Dutch employees had 28.5 and 39.1 days off a year respectively. Factors that might account for these differences are discussed.
This systematic review assesses the effectiveness of interventions in community and workplace settings to reduce sickness absence and job loss in workers with musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). Relevant studies (randomised controlled trials (RCTs) and cohort studies published since 1990) were identified by screening citations in 35 earlier systematic reviews and from searches of Medline and Embase to April 2010. Among 42 studies (54 reports) including 34 RCTs, 27 assessed return to work, 21 duration of sickness absence, and five job loss. Interventions included exercise therapy, behavioural change techniques, workplace adaptations and provision of additional services. Studies were typically small (median sample size 107 (inter-quartile range (IQR) 77 to 148) and limited in quality. Most interventions were reported as beneficial: the median relative risk (RR) for return to work was 1.21 (IQR 1.00 – 1.60) and that for avoiding MSD-related job loss, 1.25 (IQR 1.06-1.71); the median reduction in sickness absence was 1.11 (IQR 0.32 to 3.20) days/month. However, effects were smaller in the larger and better quality studies, suggesting publication bias. No intervention was clearly superior to others, although effort-intensive interventions were less effective than simple ones. No cost-benefit analyses established statistically significant net economic benefits. Given that benefits are small and of doubtful cost-effectiveness, employers’ practice should be guided by their value judgements about the uncertainties. Expensive interventions should be implemented only with rigorous cost-benefit evaluation planned from the outset. Future research should focus on the cost-effectiveness of simple low cost interventions, and further explore impacts on job retention.
Occupational Disease; Epidemiology; Rehabilitation; Systematic review; Psychological techniques; Physiotherapy
To determine whether sickness absence is a prognostic marker in terms of mortality among people with common chronic conditions.
Prospective occupational cohort study of 13 077 men and 4871 women aged 37 to 51 from the National Gas and Electricity Company, France. Records of physician-certified sickness absences over a 3-year period were obtained from employers’ registers. Chronic conditions were assessed in annual surveys over the same period. The main outcome measure was all-cause mortality (803 deaths, mean follow-up after assessment of sickness absence, 13.9 years)
In Cox proportional-hazard models adjusted for age, sex, socioeconomic position and co-morbidity, >28 annual sickness absence days vs no absence days was associated with an excess mortality risk among those with cancer (hazard ratio 5.4, 95% CI 2.2 to 13.1), depression (1.7, 1.1 to 2.8), chronic bronchitis/asthma (2.7, 1.6 to 4.6), and hypertension (1.6, 1.0 to 2.6). The corresponding hazard ratios for more than 5 long (>14 days) sickness absence episodes per 10 person-years vs no such episodes were 5.4 (2.2 to 13.1), 1.8 (1.3 to 2.7), 2.0 (1.3 to 3.2) and 1.8 (1.2 to 2.7), respectively. Areas under receiver-operating-characteristics curves for these absence measures varied between 0.56 and 0.73 indicating the potential of these measures to distinguish groups at high risk of mortality. The findings were consistent across sex, age and socioeconomic groups and in those with and without co-morbid conditions.
Data on sickness absence may provide useful prognostic information for common chronic conditions at the population level.
Absenteeism; Adult; Chronic Disease; mortality; Comorbidity; Female; France; epidemiology; Humans; Male; Middle Aged; Occupational Health; statistics & numerical data; Prognosis; Prospective Studies; Sick Leave; statistics & numerical data; Sickness absence, mortality, prognosis, working population
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.
Register-based cohort study.
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.
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.
A three-category measure and a binary measure for the occurrence of disability pension on the last day of 2008 were computed.
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.
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.
Epidemiology; Public Health; Population Registers
In the past decade in activities aiming at return-to-work (RTW), there has been a growing awareness to change the focus from sickness and work disability to recovery and work ability. To date, this process in occupational health care (OHC) has mainly been directed towards employees. However, within the working population there are two vulnerable groups: temporary agency workers and unemployed workers, since they have no workplace/employer to return to, when sick-listed. For this group there is a need for tailored RTW strategies and interventions. Therefore, this paper aims to describe the structured and stepwise process of development, implementation and evaluation of a theory- and practise-based participatory RTW program for temporary agency workers and unemployed workers, sick-listed due to musculoskeletal disorders (MSD). This program is based on the already developed and cost-effective RTW program for employees, sick-listed due to low back pain.
The Intervention Mapping (IM) protocol was used to develop a tailor-made RTW program for temporary agency workers and unemployed workers, sick-listed due to MSD. The Attitude-Social influence-self-Efficacy (ASE) model was used as a theoretical framework for determinants of behaviour regarding RTW of the sick-listed worker and development of the intervention. To ensure participation and facilitate successful adoption and implementation, important stakeholders were involved in all steps of program development and implementation. Results of semi-structured interviews and 'fine-tuning' meetings were used to design the final participatory RTW program.
A structured stepwise RTW program was developed, aimed at making a consensus-based RTW implementation plan. The new program starts with identifying obstacles for RTW, followed by a brainstorm session in which the sick-listed worker and the labour expert of the Social Security Agency (SSA) formulate solutions/possibilities for suitable (therapeutic) work. This process is guided by an independent RTW coordinator to achieve consensus. Based on the resulting RTW implementation plan, to create an actual RTW perspective, a vocational rehabilitation agency is assigned to find a matching (therapeutic) workplace. The cost-effectiveness of this participatory RTW program will be evaluated in a randomised controlled trial.
IM is a promising tool for the development of tailor-made OHC interventions for the vulnerable working population.
GPs with training in occupational medicine report cases of work-related ill health and sickness absence to The Health and Occupation Reporting network in General Practice (THOR-GP) using an online webform. This report describes the data reported in 2006 and 2007. GPs mainly reported musculoskeletal disorders and mental ill-health. A much larger proportion of the mental ill-health cases were sickness-absence certified, making up 55.9% of the total days certified. Musculoskeletal disorders are the most frequently reported diagnoses of work-related ill health, but mental ill-health is responsible for most work-related sickness absence.
general practice; industry; mental ill-heath; musculoskeletal; occupational health; sickness absence
OBJECTIVES: To analyse factors that determine the occurrence of sickness absence due to musculoskeletal problems and the time it takes to return to work. METHODS: A longitudinal study with two year follow up was conducted among 283 male welders and metal workers. The survey started with a standardised interview on the occurrence of musculoskeletal complaints. 61 (22%) workers were lost to follow up. Data on sickness absence among 222 workers during the follow up were collected from absence records and self reports. Regression analysis based on proportional hazards models was applied to identify risk factors for the occurrence and duration of sickness absence due to various musculoskeletal complaints. RESULTS: During the follow up 51% of the workers attributed at least one period of sickness absence to musculoskeletal complaints which accounted for 44% of all work days lost. A history of back pain was not associated with sickness absence for back pain, partly because subjects with back pain were more likely to be lost to follow up. Neck or shoulder pain and pain of the upper extremities contributed significantly to neck or shoulder absence (relative risk (RR) 3.35; 95% confidence interval (95% CI) 1.73 to 6.47) and to upper extremities absence (RR 2.29; 95% CI 1.17 to 4.46), respectively. Company and job title were also significant predictors for sickness absence due to these musculoskeletal complaints. Absence with musculoskeletal complaints was not associated with age, height, body mass index, smoking, and duration of employment. Return to work after neck or shoulder absence was worse among metal workers than welders (RR 2.12; 95% CI 1.08 to 4.17). Return to work after lower extremities absence was strongly influenced by visiting a physician (RR 11.31; 95% CI 2.94 to 43.46) and by musculoskeletal comorbidity (RR 2.81; 95% CI 1.18 to 6.73). CONCLUSIONS: Complaints of the neck or shoulder and upper extremities in the 12 months before the study were associated with sickness absence for these complaints during the follow up. Workers with absence due to pain from back, neck or shoulder, upper extremities, or lower extremities were at higher risk of subsequent sickness absence in the next year.
To quantify the variation in rates of absence due to musculoskeletal pain across 47 occupational groups (mostly nurses and office workers) from 18 countries, and to explore personal and group-level risk factors that might explain observed differences.
A standardised questionnaire was used to obtain information about musculoskeletal pain, sickness absence and possible risk factors in a cross-sectional survey of 12 416 workers (92–1017 per occupational group). Additionally, group-level data on socioeconomic variables, such as sick pay and unemployment rates, were assembled by members of the study team in each country. Associations of sickness absence with risk factors were examined by Poisson regression.
Overall, there were more than 30-fold differences between occupational groups in the 12-month prevalence of prolonged musculoskeletal sickness absence, and even among office workers carrying out similar occupational tasks, the variation was more than tenfold. Personal risk factors included older age, lower educational level, tendency to somatise, physical loading at work and prolonged absence for non-musculoskeletal illness. However, these explained little of the variation between occupational groups. After adjustment for individual characteristics, prolonged musculoskeletal sickness absence was more frequent in groups with greater time pressure at work, lower job control and more adverse beliefs about the work-relatedness of musculoskeletal disorders.
Musculoskeletal sickness absence might be reduced by eliminating excessive time pressures in work, maximising employees’ responsibility and control and providing flexibility of duties for those with disabling symptoms. Care should be taken not to overstate work as a cause of musculoskeletal injury.
international; risk factors; time pressure
GPs can find their role as issuers of sickness certification problematic, particularly in trying to maintain a balance between certifying absence and preserving the doctor–patient relationship. Little research has been published on consultations in which sickness absence has been certified.
To explore negotiations between GPs and patients in sickness absence certification, including how occupational health training may affect this process.
A qualitative study was undertaken with GPs trained in occupational health who also participate in a UKwide surveillance scheme studying work-related ill-health. Telephone interviews were conducted with 31 GPs who had reported cases with associated sickness absence.
Work-related sickness absence and patients' requests for a ‘sick note’ vary by diagnosis. Some GPs felt their role as patient advocate was of utmost importance, and issue certificates on a patient’s request, whereas others offer more resistance through a greater understanding of issues surrounding work and health aquired through occupational health training. GPs felt that their training helped them to challenge beliefs about absence from work being beneficial to patients experiencing ill-health; they felt better equipped to consider patients’ fitness for work, and issued fewer certificates as a result of this.
Complex issues surround GPs' role in the sickness-certification process, particularly when determining the patient's ability to work while maintaining a healthy doctor–patient relationship. This study demonstrates the potential impact of occupational health training for GPs, particularly in light of changes to the medical statement introduced in 2010.
general practice; occupational health; qualitative research; sickness absence; work-related ill-health
OBJECTIVES—In the past, evidence on the negative consequences of workplace bullying has been limited to cross sectional studies of self reported bullying. In this study, these consequences were examined prospectively by focusing on sickness absence in hospital staff.
METHODS—The Poisson regression analyses of medically certified spells (⩾4 days) and self certified spells (1-3 days) of sickness absence, relating to bullying and other predictors of health, were based on a cohort of 674 male and 4981 female hospital employees aged 19-63 years. Data on sickness absence were gathered from employers' registers. Bullying and other predictors of health were measured by a questionnaire survey.
RESULTS—302 (5%) of the employees reported being victims of bullying. They did not differ from the other employees in terms of sex, age, occupation, type of job contract, hours of work, income, smoking, alcohol consumption, or physical activity. Victims of bullying had higher body mass and prevalence of chronic disease, and their rates of medically and self certified spells of sickness absence were 1.5 (95% confidence interval (95% CI) 1.3 to 1.7) and 1.2 (1.1 to 1.4) times higher than those of the rest of the staff. The rate ratios remained significant after adjustment for demographic data, occupational background, behaviour involving risks to health, baseline health status, and sickness absence.
CONCLUSION—Workplace bullying is associated with an increase in the sickness absenteeism of the hospital staff. Targets of bullying seem not to belong to any distinct group with certain demographic characteristics or occupational background.
Keywords: workplace bullying; sickness absence; health; psychosocial factors; hospital staff
To investigate whether burnout predicts sickness absence days and sickness absence spells in human service workers.
A total of 824 participants from an ongoing prospective study in different human service sector organisations were eligible for the three year follow up analysis. Burnout was measured with the work related burnout scale of the Copenhagen Burnout Inventory. Sickness absence was measured with self‐reported number of days and spells during the last 12 months before the baseline and the follow up survey. A Poisson regression model with a scale parameter was used to account for over dispersion. A linear regression model was used for analysing changes in burnout and absence between baseline and follow up.
Burnout was prospectively associated with both sickness absence days and sickness absence spells per year. Differences in sickness absence days varied from a mean of 5.4 days per year in the lowest quartile of the work related burnout scale to a mean of 13.6 in the highest quartile. An increase of one standard deviation on the work related burnout scale predicted an increase of 21% in sickness absence days per year (rate ratio 1.21, 95% CI 1.11 to 1.32) after adjusting for gender, age, organisation, socioeconomic status, lifestyle factors, family status, having children under 7 years of age, and prevalence of diseases. Regarding sickness absence spells, an increase of one standard deviation on the work related burnout scale predicted an increase of 9% per year (rate ratio 1.09, 95% CI 1.02 to 1.17). Changes in burnout level from baseline to follow up were positively associated with changes in sickness absence days (estimate 1.94 days/year, SE 0.63) and sickness absence spell (estimate 0.34 spells/year, SE 0.08).
The findings indicate that burnout predicts sickness absence. Reducing burnout is likely to reduce sickness absence.
professional burnout; sick leave; prospective study
In South Korea, there is currently no syndromic surveillance system using internet search data, including Google Flu Trends. The purpose of this study was to investigate the correlation between national influenza surveillance data and Google Trends in South Korea.
Our study was based on a publicly available search engine database, Google Trends, using 12 influenza-related queries, from September 9, 2007 to September 8, 2012. National surveillance data were obtained from the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) influenza-like illness (ILI) and virologic surveillance system. Pearson's correlation coefficients were calculated to compare the national surveillance and the Google Trends data for the overall period and for 5 influenza seasons.
The correlation coefficient between the KCDC ILI and virologic surveillance data was 0.72 (p<0.05). The highest correlation was between the Google Trends query of H1N1 and the ILI data, with a correlation coefficient of 0.53 (p<0.05), for the overall study period. When compared with the KCDC virologic data, the Google Trends query of bird flu had the highest correlation with a correlation coefficient of 0.93 (p<0.05) in the 2010-11 season. The following queries showed a statistically significant correlation coefficient compared with ILI data for three consecutive seasons: Tamiflu (r = 0.59, 0.86, 0.90, p<0.05), new flu (r = 0.64, 0.43, 0.70, p<0.05) and flu (r = 0.68, 0.43, 0.77, p<0.05).
In our study, we found that the Google Trends for certain queries using the survey on influenza correlated with national surveillance data in South Korea. The results of this study showed that Google Trends in the Korean language can be used as complementary data for influenza surveillance but was insufficient for the use of predictive models, such as Google Flu Trends.
In 1997 there was a major reform of the government run urban health insurance system in China. The principal aims of the reform were to widen coverage of health insurance for the urban employed and contain medical costs. Following this reform there has been a transition from the dual system of the Government Insurance Scheme (GIS) and Labour Insurance Scheme (LIS) to the new Urban Employee Basic Health Insurance Scheme (BHIS).
This paper uses data from the National Health Services Surveys of 1998 and 2003 to examine the impact of the reform on population coverage. Particular attention is paid to coverage in terms of gender, age, employment status, and income levels. Following a description of the data between the two years, the paper will discuss the relationship between the insurance reform and the growing inequities in population coverage.
An examination of the data reveals a number of key points:
a) The overall coverage of the newly established scheme has decreased from 1998 to 2003.
b) The proportion of the urban population without any type of health insurance arrangement remained almost the same between 1998 and 2003 in spite of the aim of the 1997 reform to increase the population coverage.
c) Higher levels of participation in mainstream insurance schemes (i.e. GIS-LIS and BHIS) were identified among older age groups, males and high income groups. In some cases, the inequities in the system are increasing.
d) There has been an increase in coverage of the urban population by non-mainstream health insurance schemes, including non-commercial and commercial ones.
The paper discusses three important issues in relation to urban insurance coverage: institutional diversity in the forms of insurance, labour force policy and the non-mainstream forms of commercial and non-commercial forms of insurance.
The paper concludes that the huge economic development and expansion has not resulted in a reduced disparity in health insurance coverage, and that limited cross-group subsidy and regional inequality is possible. Unless effective measures are taken, vulnerable groups such as women, low income groups, employees based on short-term contracts and rural-urban migrant workers may well be left out of sharing the social and economic development.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Objective To quantify the relation between food prices and the demand for food with specific reference to national and household income levels.
Design Systematic review with meta-regression.
Data sources Online databases of peer reviewed and grey literature (ISI Web of Science, EconLit, PubMed, Medline, AgEcon, Agricola, Google, Google Scholar, IdeasREPEC, Eldis, USAID, United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, World Bank, International Food Policy Research Institute), hand searched reference lists, and contact with authors.
Study selection We included cross sectional, cohort, experimental, and quasi-experimental studies with English abstracts. Eligible studies used nationally representative data from 1990 onwards derived from national aggregate data sources, household surveys, or supermarket and home scanners.
Data analysis The primary outcome extracted from relevant papers was the quantification of the demand for foods in response to changes in food price (own price food elasticities). Descriptive and study design variables were extracted for use as covariates in analysis. We conducted meta-regressions to assess the effect of income levels between and within countries on the strength of the relation between food price and demand, and predicted price elasticities adjusted for differences across studies.
Results 136 studies reporting 3495 own price food elasticities from 162 different countries were identified. Our models predict that increases in the price of all foods result in greater reductions in food consumption in poor countries: in low and high income countries, respectively, a 1% increase in the price of cereals results in reductions in consumption of 0.61% (95% confidence interval 0.56% to 0.66%) and 0.43% (0.36% to 0.48%), and a 1% increase in the price of meat results in reductions in consumption of 0.78% (0.73% to 0.83%) and 0.60% (0.54% to 0.66%). Within all countries, our models predict that poorer households will be the most adversely affected by increases in food prices.
Conclusions Changes in global food prices will have a greater effect on food consumption in lower income countries and in poorer households within countries. This has important implications for national responses to increases in food prices and for the definition of policies designed to reduce the global burden of undernutrition.
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.
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.
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.
International Standard Randomised Controlled Trial Number Register, register number ISRCTN30911719
OBJECTIVE--To describe and explain the socioeconomic gradient in sickness absence. DESIGN--Analysis of questionnaire and sickness absence data collected from the first phase of the Whitehall II study. Grade of employment was used as a measure of socioeconomic status. SETTING--20 civil service departments in London. SUBJECTS--6900 male and 3414 female civil servants aged 35-55 years. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES--Rates of short spells (< or = 7 days) and long spells (> 7 days) of sickness absence. RESULTS--A strong inverse relation between grade of employment and sickness absence was evident. Men in the lowest grade had rates of short and long spells of absence 6.1 (95% confidence interval 5.3 to 6.9) and 6.1 (4.8 to 7.9) times higher than those in the highest grade. For women the corresponding rate ratios were 3.0 (2.3 to 3.9) and 4.2 (2.5 to 6.8) respectively. Several risk factors were identified, including health related behaviours (smoking and frequent alcohol consumption), work characteristics (low levels of control, variety and use of skills, work pace, and support at work), low levels of job satisfaction, and adverse social circumstances outside work (financial difficulties and negative support). These risk factors accounted for about one third of the grade differences in sickness absence. CONCLUSION--Large grade differences in sickness absence parallel socioeconomic differences in morbidity and mortality found in other studies. Identified risk factors accounted for a small proportion of the grade differences in sickness absence. More accurate measurement of the risk factors may explain some of the remaining differences in sickness absence but other factors, as yet unrecognised, are likely to be important.
OBJECTIVES: Large socioeconomic differences exist in disease and mortality. This paper describes the distribution of specific medical reasons for sickness absence by grade of employment in the Whitehall II study and validates the medical reason by comparison with general practitioners' records. METHODS: Analysis of sickness absence data on 5620 male and female civil servants aged 35-55 years. Data have been collected from 12 of the 20 London based civil service departments participating in the Whitehall II study, where medical reason for absence was available. Rates and distributions of reasons for absence for short spells (< or = 7 days) and long spells (> 7 days) were analysed. RESULTS: Respiratory disorders and gastroenteritis accounted for over half of all spells of absence, with headache and migraine, musculoskeletal disorders, injury, and neurosis accounting for a further 20%-30% of absences. There was an inverse association with employment grade, the lower the grade the higher the rate of absence for both short spells (< or = 7 days) and long spells (> 7 days). In general, women had higher rates of absence than men. Comparison of reason for very long spells of absence (> 21 days) showed moderate agreement between civil service and general practitioner. CONCLUSION: There is a lack of national comprehensive data on sickness absence and medical reason for absence, in particular for women and for spells of different duration. Data from the Whitehall II study show large employment grade and sex differences in the distribution of medical reasons for absence that are similar to socioeconomic differences in morbidity documented in other studies. Possible explanations include the subjective nature of illness and disease; the work/family interface; and the influence of the absence culture. Longer term follow up will provide information on whether sickness absence relates to serious morbidity and mortality.
Objective: To determine whether physical and psychosocial load at work influence sickness absence due to low back pain.
Methods: The research was a part of the study on musculoskeletal disorders, absenteeism, stress, and health (SMASH), a 3 year prospective cohort study on risk factors for musculoskeletal disorders. Workers from 21 companies located throughout The Netherlands participated in the part of this study on sickness absence due to low back pain. The study population consisted of 732 workers with no sickness absences of 3 days or longer due to low back pain in the 3 months before the baseline survey and complete data on the reasons for absences during the follow up period. The mean (range) period of follow up in this group was 37 (7–44) months. Physical load at work was assessed by analyses of video recordings. Baseline information on psychosocial work characteristics was obtained by a questionnaire. Data on sickness absence were collected from company records. The main outcome measure was the rate of sickness absences of 3 days or longer due to low back pain during the follow up period.
Results: After adjustment of the work related physical and psychosocial factors for each other and for other potential determinants, significant rate ratios ranging from 2.0 to 3.2 were found for trunk flexion, trunk rotation, lifting, and low job satisfaction. A dose-response relation was found for trunk flexion, but not for trunk rotation or lifting. Non-significant rate ratios of about 1.4 were found for low supervisor support and low coworker support. Quantitative job demands, conflicting demands, decision authority, and skill discretion showed no relation with sickness absence due to low back pain.
Conclusions: Flexion and rotation of the trunk, lifting, and low job satisfaction are risk factors for sickness absence due to low back pain. Some indications of a relation between low social support, either from supervisors or coworkers, and sickness absence due to low back pain are also present.
OBJECTIVES—To study the association between organisational downsizing and subsequent musculoskeletal problems in employees and to determine the association with changes in psychosocial and behavioural risk factors.
METHODS—Participants were 764 municipal employees working in Raisio, Finland before and after an organisational downsizing carried out between 1991 and 1993. The outcome measures were self reports of severity and sites of musculoskeletal pain at the end of 1993 and medically certified musculoskeletal sickness absence for 1993-5. The contribution of changes in psychosocial work characteristics and health related behaviour between the 1990 and 1993 surveys was assessed by adjustment.
RESULTS—After adjustment for age, sex, and income, the odds ratio (OR) for severe musculoskeletal pain between major and minor downsizing and the corresponding rate ratios for musculoskeletal sickness absence were 2.59 (95% confidence interval (95% CI) 1.5 to 4.5) and 5.50 (3.6 to 7.6), respectively. Differences between the mean number of sites of pain after major and minor downsizing was 0.99 (0.4 to 1.6). The largest contribution from changes in work characteristics and health related behaviour to the association between downsizing and musculoskeletal problems was from increases in physical demands, particularly in women and low income employees. Additional contributory factors were reduction of skill discretion (relative to musculoskeletal pain) and job insecurity. The results were little different when analyses were confined to initially healthy participants.
CONCLUSIONS—Downsizing is a risk factor for musculoskeletal problems among those who remain in employment. Much of this risk is attributable to increased physical demands, but adverse changes in other psychosocial factors may also play a part.
Keywords: ocupational health; musculoskeletal disorders; downsizing