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1.  Effectiveness of new legislation on partial sickness benefit on work participation: a quasi-experiment in Finland 
BMJ Open  2014;4(12):e006685.
To examine the effect of the new legislation on partial sickness benefit on subsequent work participation of Finns with long-term sickness absence. Additionally, we investigated whether the effect differed by sex, age or diagnostic category.
A register-based quasi-experimental study compared the intervention (partial sick leave) group with the comparison (full sick leave) group regarding their pre-post differences in the outcome. The preintervention and postintervention period each consisted of 365 days.
Nationwide, individual-level data on the beneficiaries of partial or full sickness benefit in 2008 were obtained from national sickness insurance, pension and earnings registers.
1738 persons in the intervention and 56 754 persons in the comparison group.
Work participation, measured as the proportion (%) of time within 365 days when participants were gainfully employed and did not receive either partial or full ill-health-related or unemployment benefits.
Although work participation declined in both groups, the decline was 5% (absolute difference-in-differences) smaller in the intervention than in the comparison group, with a minor sex difference. The beneficial effect of partial sick leave was seen especially among those aged 45–54 (5%) and 55–65 (6%) and in mental disorders (13%). When the groups were rendered more exchangeable (propensity score matching on age, sex, diagnostic category, income, occupation, insurance district, work participation, sickness absence, rehabilitation periods and unemployment, prior to intervention and their interaction terms), the effects on work participation were doubled and seen in all age groups and in other diagnostic categories than traumas.
The results suggest that the new legislation has potential to increase work participation of the population with long-term sickness absence in Finland. If applied in a larger scale, partial sick leave may turn out to be a useful tool in reducing withdrawal of workers from the labour market due to health reasons.
PMCID: PMC4281551  PMID: 25539780
partial sick leave; sick leave; work disability; population registers
2.  Evaluation of the Validity of Job Exposure Matrix for Psychosocial Factors at Work 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(9):e108987.
To study the performance of a developed job exposure matrix (JEM) for the assessment of psychosocial factors at work in terms of accuracy, possible misclassification bias and predictive ability to detect known associations with depression and low back pain (LBP).
Materials and Methods
We utilized two large population surveys (the Health 2000 Study and the Finnish Work and Health Surveys), one to construct the JEM and another to test matrix performance. In the first study, information on job demands, job control, monotonous work and social support at work was collected via face-to-face interviews. Job strain was operationalized based on job demands and job control using quadrant approach. In the second study, the sensitivity and specificity were estimated applying a Bayesian approach. The magnitude of misclassification error was examined by calculating the biased odds ratios as a function of the sensitivity and specificity of the JEM and fixed true prevalence and odds ratios. Finally, we adjusted for misclassification error the observed associations between JEM measures and selected health outcomes.
The matrix showed a good accuracy for job control and job strain, while its performance for other exposures was relatively low. Without correction for exposure misclassification, the JEM was able to detect the association between job strain and depression in men and between monotonous work and LBP in both genders.
Our results suggest that JEM more accurately identifies occupations with low control and high strain than those with high demands or low social support. Overall, the present JEM is a useful source of job-level psychosocial exposures in epidemiological studies lacking individual-level exposure information. Furthermore, we showed the applicability of a Bayesian approach in the evaluation of the performance of the JEM in a situation where, in practice, no gold standard of exposure assessment exists.
PMCID: PMC4182611  PMID: 25268276
3.  Associations of metabolic factors and adipokines with pain in incipient upper extremity soft tissue disorders: a cross-sectional study 
BMJ Open  2013;3(8):e003036.
Earlier studies have suggested associations between metabolic factors and musculoskeletal pain or disorders. We studied the associations of obesity, lipids, other features of the metabolic syndrome and adipokines (adiponectin, leptin, resistin, visfatin) with upper extremity pain in a clinical population with incipient upper extremity soft tissue disorders (UESTDs).
A cross-sectional study.
Primary healthcare (occupational health service) with further examinations at a research institute.
Patients (N=163, 86% were women) seeking medical advice in the occupational health service due to incipient upper extremity symptoms with symptom duration of <1 month were referred for consultation to the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health from Spring 2006 to Fall 2008. We included all actively working subjects meeting diagnostic criteria based on physical examination. We excluded subjects meeting predetermined conditions.
Outcome measure
Pain intensity was assessed with visual analogue scale and dichotomised at the highest tertile (cut-point 60).
Obesity (adjusted OR for high waist circumference 2.9, 95% CI 1.1 to 7.3), high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (OR 3.9, 95% CI 1.4 to 10.1 for low level) and triglycerides (OR 2.6, 95% CI 1.0 to 6.8 for high level) were associated with pain intensity. Of four adipokines studied, only visfatin was associated with upper extremity pain (adjusted OR 1.4, 95% CI 1.0 to 2.1 for 1SD increase in level).
Abdominal obesity and lipids may have an impact on pain intensity in UESTDs. They may intensify pain through proinflammatory pain-modifying molecular pathways or by causing soft tissue pathology and dysfunction of their supplying arteries. Of four adipokines studied only one (visfatin) was associated with pain intensity. In the future, further studies are required to better understand the relationship between metabolic factors and UESTDs.
PMCID: PMC3753506  PMID: 23959751
Occupational & Industrial Medicine; Musculoskeletal disorders < ORTHOPAEDIC & TRAUMA SURGERY
4.  Development and Validation of a Job Exposure Matrix for Physical Risk Factors in Low Back Pain 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(11):e48680.
The aim was to construct and validate a gender-specific job exposure matrix (JEM) for physical exposures to be used in epidemiological studies of low back pain (LBP).
Materials and Methods
We utilized two large Finnish population surveys, one to construct the JEM and another to test matrix validity. The exposure axis of the matrix included exposures relevant to LBP (heavy physical work, heavy lifting, awkward trunk posture and whole body vibration) and exposures that increase the biomechanical load on the low back (arm elevation) or those that in combination with other known risk factors could be related to LBP (kneeling or squatting). Job titles with similar work tasks and exposures were grouped. Exposure information was based on face-to-face interviews. Validity of the matrix was explored by comparing the JEM (group-based) binary measures with individual-based measures. The predictive validity of the matrix against LBP was evaluated by comparing the associations of the group-based (JEM) exposures with those of individual-based exposures.
The matrix includes 348 job titles, representing 81% of all Finnish job titles in the early 2000s. The specificity of the constructed matrix was good, especially in women. The validity measured with kappa-statistic ranged from good to poor, being fair for most exposures. In men, all group-based (JEM) exposures were statistically significantly associated with one-month prevalence of LBP. In women, four out of six group-based exposures showed an association with LBP.
The gender-specific JEM for physical exposures showed relatively high specificity without compromising sensitivity. The matrix can therefore be considered as a valid instrument for exposure assessment in large-scale epidemiological studies, when more precise but more labour-intensive methods are not feasible. Although the matrix was based on Finnish data we foresee that it could be applicable, with some modifications, in other countries with a similar level of technology.
PMCID: PMC3495969  PMID: 23152793
5.  Partial sick leave associated with disability pension: propensity score approach in a register-based cohort study 
BMJ Open  2012;2(6):e001752.
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.
Outcome measures
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.
PMCID: PMC3533026  PMID: 23144260
Epidemiology; Public Health; Population Registers
6.  Associations of cardiovascular risk factors, carotid intima-media thickness and manifest atherosclerotic vascular disease with carpal tunnel syndrome 
The role of atherosclerosis in carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) has not previously been addressed in population studies. The aim of this study was to investigate the associations of cardiovascular risk factors, carotid artery intima-media thickness (IMT), and clinical atherosclerotic diseases with CTS.
In this cross sectional study, the target population consisted of subjects aged 30 or over who had participated in the national Finnish Health Survey in 2000-2001. Of the 7977 eligible subjects, 6254 (78.4%) were included in our study. Carotid IMT was measured in a sub-sample of subjects aged 45 to 74 (N = 1353).
Obesity (adjusted odds ratio (OR) 2.4, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.1-5.4), high LDL cholesterol (OR 3.8, 95% CI 1.6-9.1 for >190 vs. <129 mg/dL), high triglycerides (OR 2.7, 95% CI 1.2-6.1 for >200 vs. <150 mg/dL), hypertension (OR 3.4, 95% CI 1.6-7.4) and cardiac arrhythmia (OR 10.2, 95% CI 2.7-38.4) were associated with CTS in subjects aged 30-44. In the age group of 60 years or over, coronary artery disease (OR 1.9, 95% CI 1.1-3.5), valvular heart disease (OR 2.3, 95% CI 1.0-5.0) and carotid IMT (1.4, 95% CI 0.9-2.1 for each 0.23 mm increase) were associated with CTS. Carotid IMT was associated with CTS only in subjects with hypertension or clinical atherosclerotic vascular disease, or in those who were exposed to physical workload factors.
Our findings suggest an association between CTS and cardiovascular risk factors in young people, and carotid IMT and clinical atherosclerotic vascular disease in older people. CTS may either be a manifestation of atherosclerosis, or both conditions may share similar risk factors.
PMCID: PMC3116486  PMID: 21521493
Atherosclerosis; carotid artery; coronary artery disease; hypertension; obesity; smoking; wrist
7.  Lifestyle and metabolic factors in relation to shoulder pain and rotator cuff tendinitis: A population-based study 
Shoulder pain is a common health problem. The purpose of this study was to assess the associations of lifestyle factors, metabolic factors and carotid intima-media thickness with shoulder pain and chronic (> 3 months) rotator cuff tendinitis.
In this cross-sectional study, the target population consisted of subjects aged 30 years or older participating in a national Finnish Health Survey during 2000-2001. Of the 7,977 eligible subjects, 6,237 (78.2%) participated in a structured interview and clinical examination. Chronic rotator cuff tendinitis was diagnosed clinically. Weight-related factors, C-reactive protein and carotid intima-media thickness were measured.
The prevalence of shoulder joint pain during the preceding 30 days was 16% and that of chronic rotator cuff tendinitis 2.8%. Smoking, waist circumference and waist-to-hip ratio were related to an increased prevalence of shoulder pain in both genders. Metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes mellitus and carotid intima-media thickness were associated with shoulder pain in men, whereas high level of C-reactive protein was associated with shoulder pain in women. Increased waist circumference and type 1 diabetes mellitus were associated with chronic rotator cuff tendinitis in men.
Our findings showed associations of abdominal obesity, some other metabolic factors and carotid intima-media thickness with shoulder pain. Disturbed glucose metabolism and atherosclerosis may be underlying mechanisms, although not fully supported by the findings of this study. Prospective studies are needed to further investigate the role of lifestyle and metabolic factors in shoulder disorders.
PMCID: PMC3161397  PMID: 20646281
8.  Associations between partial sickness benefit and disability pensions: initial findings of a Finnish nationwide register study 
BMC Public Health  2010;10:361.
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.
PMCID: PMC2912806  PMID: 20573207
9.  Cardiovascular and lifestyle risk factors in lumbar radicular pain or clinically defined sciatica: a systematic review 
European Spine Journal  2007;16(12):2043-2054.
Lumbar radicular pain is a fairly common health problem, yet its risk factors are far from clear. There are no published systematic reviews on associations between cardiovascular or lifestyle risk factors and lumbar radicular pain or sciatica. The aim of this systematic literature review was to assess associations between these risk factors and lumbar radicular pain or sciatica. We conducted a systematic search of the Medline database for all original articles on lumbar radicular pain or sciatica published until August 2006. Twenty-two papers from 19 studies were included in the review. Overweight or obesity was associated with sciatica in most of the case-control and cohort studies. Some studies showed an increased risk of lumbar radicular pain in smokers with a long smoking history or in those with high levels of physical activity. A few case-control studies showed an association between serum C-reactive protein and sciatica. No consistent associations were found for serum lipids levels or high blood pressure. In summary, the associations of overweight, long smoking history, high physical activity and a high serum C-reactive protein level with lumbar radicular pain or sciatica were substantiated by the present review. However, more prospective studies are needed in order to further clarify these associations and the mechanisms of action.
PMCID: PMC2140143  PMID: 17525856
C-reactive protein; Exercise; Lipids; Overweight; Smoking
10.  Effectiveness of early part-time sick leave in musculoskeletal disorders 
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.
Trial Registration
International Standard Randomised Controlled Trial Number Register, register number ISRCTN30911719
PMCID: PMC2267790  PMID: 18294405
11.  Effect of training and lifting equipment for preventing back pain in lifting and handling: systematic review 
BMJ : British Medical Journal  2008;336(7641):429-431.
Objectives To determine whether advice and training on working techniques and lifting equipment prevent back pain in jobs that involve heavy lifting.
Data sources Medline, Embase, CENTRAL, Cochrane Back Group’s specialised register, CINAHL, Nioshtic, CISdoc, Science Citation Index, and PsychLIT were searched up to September-November 2005.
Review methods The primary search focused on randomised controlled trials and the secondary search on cohort studies with a concurrent control group. Interventions aimed to modify techniques for lifting and handling heavy objects or patients and including measurements for back pain, consequent disability, or sick leave as the main outcome were considered for the review. Two authors independently assessed eligibility of the studies and methodological quality of those included. For data synthesis, we summarised the results of studies comparing similar interventions. We used odds ratios and effect sizes to combine the results in a meta-analysis. Finally, we compared the conclusions of the primary and secondary analyses.
Results Six randomised trials and five cohort studies met the inclusion criteria. Two randomised trials and all cohort studies were labelled as high quality. Eight studies looked at lifting and moving patients, and three studies were conducted among baggage handlers or postal workers. Those in control groups received no intervention or minimal training, physical exercise, or use of back belts. None of the comparisons in randomised trials (17 720 participants) yielded significant differences. In the secondary analysis, none of the cohort studies (772 participants) had significant results, which supports the results of the randomised trials.
Conclusions There is no evidence to support use of advice or training in working techniques with or without lifting equipment for preventing back pain or consequent disability. The findings challenge current widespread practice of advising workers on correct lifting technique.
PMCID: PMC2249682  PMID: 18244957

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