Occupational health research round-up: December 2018

NHS nurse attending to a patient
Photo: REX/Photofusion

Measles immunity in healthcare workers

Healthcare workers have an increased exposure risk to measles, potentially putting them, their patients and relatives at risk of infection. This study of workers at an Italian hospital found that only 87% have protective measles IgG antibody titres and that the proportion of protective titres was highest in those born before 1982. The authors conclude that “a substantial percentage” of healthcare workers show non-protective measles antibody titres and that “increased prevention strategies are required, including rigorous screening and prompt vaccination of non-immune workers.”
Coppeta L et al. “Measles immunity in an Italian teaching hospital”, Occupational Medicine, published online 6 October 2018.

Job insecurity associated with psychological distress

Persistent job insecurity, and changes in perceptions of job security, has an adverse effect on workers’ psychological distress, according to this study of Japanese employees. The impact is particularly acute amongst those with children and persists after adjusting for confounders. The authors conclude that “policy makers should consider dependent family and gender inequalities when developing policies to reduce job insecurity and its negative health effects.”
Kachi Y et al. “Gender differences in the effects of job insecurity on psychological distress in Japanese workers: a population-based panel study”. International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health, November 2018, Vol 91, issue 8, pp991-999. Published online on 17 July.

Job strain and cognitive change

Job strain at work is associated with a decline in cognitive capacity in later life, according to this Baltimore-based study. Participants with high job demands and/or low job control had the greatest decrease in mental state and memory scores at the 11 year follow-up point to the baseline than those with low job demands and high control.
Dong L et al. “Job strain and cognitive change: the Baltimore Epidemiologic Catchment Area follow-up study”, Occupational & Environmental Medicine, published online 15 October 2018.

“Overemployment” related to deterioration in mental health

Working more hours than you would prefer is related to negative changes in mental health, according to an analysis of German employees. This relationship holds true as much for those with high earnings and job prospects as those with low rewards at work, it suggests. Conversely, underemployment (working fewer hours than preferred) is not related to a reduction in mental health. The study looked at workers in paid employment who did not change jobs between 2006 and 2008, assessing under- and overemployment as the difference between individuals’ actual and preferred working hours. Mental health was assessed using the Mental Component Summary score, a subscale from the Short Form 12 Health Survey.
De Moortel D et al. “Underemployment, overemployment and deterioration of mental health: the role of job rewards”, International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health, November 2018, vol 91, issue 8, pp1031-1039. Published online 9 August 2018.

Multi-site pain persists into old age

Multi-site musculoskeletal pain (MSP) in mid-working life often persists into old age, according to this longitudinal study of local government workers at four time points after a baseline analysis in 1981. Three trajectories of pain emerged over the 28-year study period: 25% of the workers were classified in a low pain group; 52% in a “moderate” group and 23% in a “high-decreasing” group. The number of pain sites amongst this latter group at first decreased sharply, stabilising to a “moderate” pain level after most individuals retired. This group were also more likely to have experienced high job demands and high job control at baseline, and to have a body mass index over 25 and low leisure-time physical activity levels.
Neupane S et al. “Multisite musculoskeletal pain trajectories from midlife to old age: a 28-year follow-up of municipal employees”, Occupational & Environmental Medicine, published online 15 October 2018.

Time pressures at work associated with unhealthy lifestyles

Employees who experience a high degree of time pressure at work, or who work more than the number of hours set out in their employment contract, are at greater risk of developing unhealthy lifestyles, according to this German study. The association between overtime working, fixed-term contracts, commuting and unhealthy lifestyles gets stronger with employee age.
Rubin M. “Job-related determinants of unhealthy lifestyles”, Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, published online 10 October 2018.

Multi-morbidity in an ageing workforce

A combination of physical and mental health problems is more strongly related to poor work ability than pure physical ill health, according to this study of 7,175 workers aged 45-64. The study aims to explore the effect of multi-morbidity on work ability in an ageing workforce, and particularly the extent to which different coping styles mitigate the effects. It finds that a higher number of co-existing health problems is related to poorer work ability, but that this negative association stabilises in those with three or more health problems. “Active coping” can help reduce the impact of multi-morbidity on work ability, the study concludes.
Kadijk E A et al. “The influence of multi-morbidity on the work ability of ageing employees and the role of coping style”, Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation, published online 03 September 2018.

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