Lower psychosocial workload, longer working careers

The latest research suggests that the risk of many illnesses can be reduced by decreasing psychosocial workload, that is, mental and social strain at work. The risk of work disability pension due to musculoskeletal diseases could be decreased by up to 35 per cent and due to mental health problems by almost 20 per cent. Mental health and musculoskeletal disorders are the most common reasons for work disability pensions. Research data on concrete methods for reducing the psychosocial workload of workplaces is nevertheless scarce.

”These figures are from a Finnish follow-up study in which 30 000 men and women participated. The study investigated how the improvement of employees’ potential to influence work time could reduce early exit from work”, says Professor Mika Kivimäki from the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health (FIOH) and University College London.

M ika Kivimäki will be one of the speakers at the Work Well-being and Wealth conference in Helsinki on 26.8. The conference, organized by FIOH, will focus on the latest knowledge, challenges and solutions related to extending working careers, well-being at work and productivity. ”The prevention of cardiovascular and other chronic diseases is vital for extending working careers,” continues Kivimäki, highlighting further research data.

“A cross-European meta-analysis of 170 000 men and women showed that job strain and job insecurity increased the risk of developing coronary heart disease by 20 per cent. Prolonged work stress has also shown to increase the risk of depression.”

In a large public-sector study, stress at work, characterised by high demands and low job control, and organizational downsizing was associated with a doubling of the risk of early retirement due to musculoskeletal disorders.

Controlling the psychosocial factors of work may help reduce early retirement due to illness. Currently, however, systematic research of concrete ways in which to decrease psychosocial workload at workplaces is largely lacking”, Kivimäki stresses.

Normal age-related changes to be taken into account when planning work

Ageing workers have many strengths. Their experience means they may have vision, skills and a sense of proportion.

However, differences between people’s functional capacity grow with age. Physical functional capacity is known to weaken at a relatively young age. Memory and speed of reasoning also begin to decline quite early, usually around the age of forty. In addition, older employees have less reserve energy for sustained or intense activity than their younger colleagues.

”These normal age-related changes in functional capacity and resources are poorly taken into account in today’s working careers,” claims Kivimäki. ” More influence over one’s working hours, for example, could lead to people staying in work life for longer.”

The Work, Well-being and Wealth: Active Ageing at Work conference (WWW) is organized in Helsinki in collaboration with international scientific organizations (JPI, PEROSH, ICOH, IEA, European Agency on Safety and Health at Work), the Ministry for Social Affairs and Health, the Ministry of Employment and the Economy, and Finnish labour market organizations. The conference will be attended by almost 200 researchers and experts from almost 30 different countries.

Further information: Professor Mika Kivimäki, FIOH, University College of London, tel. +358 40 730 8879, +358 30 474 2709, mjkivima(at)mappi.helsinki.fi

Further information regarding the conference:

Mikko Härmä, Research Professor, FIOH, tel : +358 30 474 2729, +358 40 544 2750, Mikko.Harma(at)ttl.fi

Programme www.ttl.fi/www2013
Twitter #workhealth2013

Links to research articles:

Kivimäki M et al. IPD-Work Consortium. Job strain as a risk factor for coronary heart disease: a collaborative meta-analysis of individual participant data. Lancet 2012 Oct 27;380(9852):1491-7

Virtanen M et al., Kivimäki M. IPD-Work Consortium. Perceived job insecurity as a risk factor for incident coronary heart disease: systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ 2013 Aug 8;347:f4746

Singh-Manoux A, Kivimaki M et al. Timing of onset of cognitive decline: results from Whitehall II prospective cohort study. BMJ 2011 Jan 5;344:d7622.

Vahtera J et al. Employee control over working times and risk of cause-specific disability pension: the Finnish Public Sector Study. Occup Environ Med 2010 Jul;67(7):479-85.

The Finnish Institute of Occupational Health researches, develops and specializes in well-being at work. It promotes occupational health and safety and the well-being of workers. It is an independent institution under public law, working under the administrative sector of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health. It has six regional offices, and its headquarters are in Helsinki. It employs just under 800 people.

About Us

The Finnish Institute of Occupational Health (Työterveyslaitos) researches, develops and specializes in well-being at work. It promotes occupational health and safety and the well-being of workers. It is an independent institution under public law, working under the administrative sector of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health. It has five regional offices, and its headquarters are in Helsinki. It employs about 560 people.

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