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1.  The social gradient in work and health: a cross-sectional study exploring the relationship between working conditions and health inequalities 
BMC Public Health  2013;13:1170.
Social inequalities in health are widely examined. But the reasons behind this phenomenon still remain unclear in parts. It is undisputed that the work environment plays a crucial role in this regard. However, the contribution of psychosocial factors at work is unclear and inconsistent, and most studies are limited with regard to work factors and health outcomes. This study, therefore, aimed to explore the role and contribution of various physical and psychosocial working conditions to explaining social inequalities in different self-reported health outcomes.
Data from a postal survey among the workforces of four medium-sized and large companies from diverse industries of the secondary sector in Switzerland were used and analysed. The study sample covered 1,846 employees aged 20 and 64 and included significant proportions of unskilled manual workers and highly qualified non-manual workers. Cross tabulations and logistic regression analyses were performed to study multiple associations between social status, work factors and health outcomes. Combinations of educational level and occupational position wee used as a measure of social status or class.
Clear social gradients were observed for almost all adverse working conditions and poor health outcomes studied, but in different directions. While physical workloads and other typical blue-collar job characteristics not suprisingly, were found to be much more common among the lower classes, most psychosocial work demands and job resources were more prevalent in the higher classes. Furthermore, workers in lower classes, i.e. with lower educational and occupational status, were more likely to report poor self-rated health, limited physical functioning and long sickness absence, but at the same time were less likely to experience increased stress feelings and burnout symptoms showing a reversed health gradient. Finally, blue-collar job characteristics contributed substantially to the social gradient found in general and physical health outcomes. In contrast, white-collar job characteristics made no contribution to explaining the gradient in these health outcomes, but instead largely explained the reversed social gradient observed for the mental health outcomes.
The findings suggest a more differentiated pattern of the commonly found social gradient in health and the differential role of work in this respect.
PMCID: PMC4028882  PMID: 24330543
Health inequalities; Social gradient; Educational status; Occupational status; Physical working conditions; Psychosocial working conditions; Blue-collar job characteristics; White-collar job characteristics; Switzerland
2.  Impact of a smoking ban in hospitality venues on second hand smoke exposure: a comparison of exposure assessment methods 
BMC Public Health  2013;13:536.
In May 2010, Switzerland introduced a heterogeneous smoking ban in the hospitality sector. While the law leaves room for exceptions in some cantons, it is comprehensive in others. This longitudinal study uses different measurement methods to examine airborne nicotine levels in hospitality venues and the level of personal exposure of non-smoking hospitality workers before and after implementation of the law.
Personal exposure to second hand smoke (SHS) was measured by three different methods. We compared a passive sampler called MoNIC (Monitor of NICotine) badge, to salivary cotinine and nicotine concentration as well as questionnaire data. Badges allowed the number of passively smoked cigarettes to be estimated. They were placed at the venues as well as distributed to the participants for personal measurements. To assess personal exposure at work, a time-weighted average of the workplace badge measurements was calculated.
Prior to the ban, smoke-exposed hospitality venues yielded a mean badge value of 4.48 (95%-CI: 3.7 to 5.25; n = 214) cigarette equivalents/day. At follow-up, measurements in venues that had implemented a smoking ban significantly declined to an average of 0.31 (0.17 to 0.45; n = 37) (p = 0.001). Personal badge measurements also significantly decreased from an average of 2.18 (1.31-3.05 n = 53) to 0.25 (0.13-0.36; n = 41) (p = 0.001). Spearman rank correlations between badge exposure measures and salivary measures were small to moderate (0.3 at maximum).
Nicotine levels significantly decreased in all types of hospitality venues after implementation of the smoking ban. In-depth analyses demonstrated that a time-weighted average of the workplace badge measurements represented typical personal SHS exposure at work more reliably than personal exposure measures such as salivary cotinine and nicotine.
PMCID: PMC3681657  PMID: 23731820
Smoking ban; Hospitality workers; Second hand smoke; Passive sampler; Prospective study
3.  Persistent work-life conflict and health satisfaction - A representative longitudinal study in Switzerland 
BMC Public Health  2011;11:271.
The objectives of the present study were (1) to track work-life conflict in Switzerland during the years 2002 to 2008 and (2) to analyse the relationship between work-life conflict and health satisfaction, examining whether long-term work-life conflict leads to poor health satisfaction.
The study is based on a representative longitudinal database (Swiss Household Panel), covering a six-year period containing seven waves of data collection. The sample includes 1261 persons, with 636 men and 625 women. Data was analysed by multi-level mixed models and analysis of variance with repeated measures.
In the overall sample, there was no linear increase or decrease of work-life conflict detected, in either its time-based or strain-based form. People with higher education were more often found to have a strong work-life conflict (time- and strain-based), and more men demonstrated a strong time-based work-life conflict than women (12.2% vs. 5%). A negative relationship between work-life conflict and health satisfaction over time was found. People reporting strong work-life conflict at every wave reported lower health satisfaction than people with consistently weak work-life conflict. However, the health satisfaction of those with a continuously strong work-life conflict did not decrease during the study period.
Both time-based and strain-based work-life conflict are strongly correlated to health satisfaction. However, no evidence was found for a persistent work-life conflict leading to poor health satisfaction.
PMCID: PMC3103457  PMID: 21529345
work-life conflict; work-family conflict; health; longitudinal analysis; mixed model analysis; Switzerland
4.  Work-life conflict and musculoskeletal disorders: a cross-sectional study of an unexplored association 
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.
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.
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.
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.
PMCID: PMC3073966  PMID: 21410950
5.  Allez Hop, a nationwide programme for the promotion of physical activity in Switzerland: what is the evidence for a population impact after one decade of implementation? 
British Journal of Sports Medicine  2010;45(15):1202-1207.
To present evidence for a population impact of a national physical activity promotion programme after a decade of implementation.
The programme Allez Hop offered local physical activity courses (mainly walking and Nordic walking) once a week over 12 weeks. Data from a pretest posttest survey in 2005 course participants (N=2157 at baseline (of 4130, 52.2%), 1587 at first follow-up (73.6%); smaller subsample with second follow-up) and from repeated cross-sectional national surveys have been analysed regarding changes in physical activity behaviour.
The total number of Allez Hop courses was 18 684 between 1997 and 2008. 89.2% of participants were women, the mean age was 48.5 years. The proportion meeting the physical activity recommendations was 31.7% at baseline, in participants with first follow-up data it increased from 33.1% to 42.3% (p<0.001). On the population level in the main user group of Allez Hop (middle-aged women) the proportion not engaging in any sport decreased from 50.1% (1997) to 47.2% (2002) and to 43.1% (2007) (p<0.01). Walking/hiking was the second most frequently performed sport (33.7%) in 2007, with the most remarkable increase since 2000 (+11.1%).
Allez Hop was successfully implemented for more than a decade, reached middle-aged women and a high proportion of insufficiently active individuals. Changes in participants' physical activity behaviour must be interpreted cautiously because of low response rates and short follow-up. However, indications for behavioural changes were observed at the population level, even though these data do not allow a causal link to Allez Hop.
PMCID: PMC3597183  PMID: 20542973

Results 1-5 (5)