Occupational health research round-up: December 2019

Low expectations about the outcome of knee surgery partly explains why three out of ten patients fail to return to work, research has suggested. Shutterstock

Low patient expectation hits knee surgery rehabilitation

Low expectations about the outcome of knee surgery partly explains why three out of ten patients fail to return to work after total knee arthroplasty, according to this cross-sectional study. For example, 28% of the patients in the study expected no clinical improvement six months after knee surgery, or even a worsening of ability to perform work-related tasks. A third of the 236 patients in the study expected severe difficulty in kneeling six months after surgery, 30% in crouching and 17% in clambering. “Addressing patients’ expectations seems useful in order to assure realistic expectations regarding work activities”, the study authors suggest.

Zaanen Y van et al. “Three out of ten working patients expect no clinical improvement of their ability to perform work-related knee-demanding activities after total knee arthroplasty: a multicenter study”, Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation, September 2019, volume 29, issue 3, pp585-594.

Risk of asbestos-related mesothelioma once exposure stops

The risk of asbestos-related mesothelioma does not fall after the exposure to asbestos stops, according to this systematic literature review. However, the review does find that the relative risk of lung cancer 10 years after an exposure to asbestos ceases does decline.

P Boffetta et al. “Risk of mesothelioma after cessation of asbestos exposure: a systematic review and meta-regression”, International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health, October 2019, volume 92, issue 7, pp949-957.

Towards a psychosocial theory of sick leave

Psychosocial characteristics of the working environment are strongly associated with both the likelihood of an individual taking sick leave, and the duration of the leave, according to this study based on data from the European Working Conditions Survey 2010 and 2015. For example, the authors find that occupation, age and an individual’s subjective assessment of health status are all associated with the incidence and duration of sick leave, prompting them to conclude: “the findings of the present study may serve as a basis for the development and implementation of occupational health interventions aiming to reduce sick-leave rates in organisations.”

Montano D. “A psychosocial theory of sick leave put to the test in the European Working Conditions Survey 2010-2015”, International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health, published online 10 October 2019.

Violence at work in the healthcare sector

The extent to which healthcare workers are exposed to workplace violence from patients and visitors differs greatly country-to-country, according to this global study. The proportion of workers exposed to violence also varies by practice setting, work schedule and occupation within healthcare, the authors find. Overall, the prevalence of violence in the sector is high, especially in Asian and North American countries, psychiatric and emergency department settings and among nurses and physicians. “There is a need for governments, policymakers and health institutions to take actions to address workplace violence towards healthcare professionals globally”, the review’s authors conclude.

Liu J et al. “Prevalence of workplace violence against healthcare workers: a systematic review and meta-analysis”, Occupational & Environmental Medicine, published online 13 October 2019.

Work-family conflict among couples

Work-family conflict affects the wellbeing and mental health of men and women in couples, according to this study based on the German Family Panel survey. The authors conclude that: “As work-family conflict has become a fact of life for many contemporary workers, our results contribute by highlighting the importance of using couple-level data and testing longitudinal crossover effects to provide a fuller understanding of such conflict’s health consequences.”

Yucel D and Fan W. “Work-family conflict and well-being among German couples: a longitudinal and dyadic approach”, Journal of Health and Social Behavior, published online 17 September 2019.

Effort-reward imbalances and health

A strong imbalance between effort and received rewards at work is strongly related to changes in health (defined as self-rated health, depressive symptoms, migraine and sickness absence), according to this Swedish study. It finds that, although only 10% of employees in the sample experienced a strong imbalance between effort and reward, women working in the health care and education sectors tended to be over-represented in the group. Although redressing the imbalance between effort and reward was related to improvements in health, these never reached the level of health achieved by individuals reporting a stable, low imbalance. The authors of the study conclude: “To keep the workforce healthy and engaged, not least in female-dominated industries like education, health and social care, organisations should strive for a balance between efforts and rewards.”

Leineweber C et al. “Trajectories of effort-reward imbalance in Swedish workers: differences in demographic and work-related factors and associations with health”, Work & Stress, published online 9 October 2019.

Asbestos exposure and colorectal cancer

Occupational exposure to asbestos is a risk factor for colorectal cancer, although the effect size is small, according to this systematic review and meta-analysis. The review examines 44 articles and 46 cohort studies, finding that the risk of colorectal cancer mortality increases as the level of asbestos exposure rises.

Kwak K et al. “Exposure to asbestos and the risk of colorectal cancer mortality: a systematic review and meta-analysis”, Occupational & Environmental Medicine, published online 8 October 2019.

Young workers with arthritis

Young workers with arthritis experience many challenges at key stages in their careers, from career planning to productive working, according to this Australian interview-based study. Three themes were identified: the perceived impacts of arthritis on career trajectories; the impact of the condition on employees’ work environment, employers and co-workers; and the personal toll of working with arthritis.

Berkovic D et al. “’I would be more of a liability than an asset’: navigating the workplace as a young person with arthritis”, Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation, published online 7 August 2019.

Work environment and sleep

Exposure to physical stressors at work, for example, noise or poor air quality, is significantly associated with insufficient sleep, according to this investigation of the relationships between the physical work environment and sleep. The study uses latent class analysis to place individuals into one of three physical work environment classes (“infrequent exposure”, “occasional exposure” and “regular exposure”) and four sleep classes (“larks”, “typical sleep”, “insufficient sleep” and “owls”).

Magee C et al. “The physical work environment and sleep: a latent class analysis”, Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, published online 7 October 2019.

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