Occupational Health & Wellbeing research round-up: May 2020

Perceived stress and teacher absence

High levels of perceived stress amongst teachers are associated with increased frequency of sickness absence days, according to this study of 2,542 teachers. Occupational and health factors mediated the effect of stress by approximately by 37%.

Howard J T and Howard K J, “The effect of perceived stress on absenteeism and presenteeism in public school teachers” ,Journal of Workplace Behavioral Health, published online 19 February 2020.

Using text mining to detect psychosocial risk factors

Psychosocial risk factors influence levels of early retirement and absence from work. This study suggests that it is often difficult to use the information collected during workplace health checks to identify these risk factors because information is stored in the form of free text. However, its exploration of documentation for 7,078 employees finds that, in 83% of cases, psychosocial risk factors are mentioned in the electronically-documented case notes. Further, this group of risk factors was mentioned more frequently in the notes of those employees that received fit notes (or other medical statements) for pension, rehabilitation or sick leave than in the notes of those that did not receive medical statements. The authors conclude that it is possible to detect risk factors for sick leave from free-text documentation stored as part of employees’ health checks, and that a text mining tool should be developed to automate this process.

Uronen L et al. “Towards automated detection of psychosocial risk factors with text mining”, Occupational Medicine, published online 22 February 2020.

Individualised mental health education

Much mental health education for managers and supervisors is typically conducted in a group format, but this Japanese study suggests that an individualised approach might be more effective. Overall, 95% of the 85 participants in the study approved the individual format. The authors conclude that the introduction of individualised education on mental health be implemented for managers through voluntary consultations after group education sessions, and that such “individualised education may contribute to early intervention for work-related mental disorders.”
Soeda S. “An individualised mental health education programme for Japanese managers”, Occupational Medicine, published online 20 February 2020.

Obesity at work

This study identifies four body mass index (BMI) trajectories amongst a group of working Canadians between 1994 and 2010, concluding that all four are associated with increased body weight over time. Belonging to a “higher decision authority” trajectory (that is, having greater autonomy at work) is associated with lower odds of being overweight and obese; whereas belonging to a “decreasing physical exertion” trajectory was associated with higher odds of being very obese.

Dobson K G et al. “Body mass index trajectories among the Canadian workforce and their association with work environment trajectories over 17 years”, Occupational & Environmental Medicine, published online 10 March 2020.

Pain is best predictor of post-fracture sick leave

Distal radius facture (broken wrist) often affects an individual’s ability to work, but the clinical implications are less studied in men due to their lower incidence of such fractures. This study of 88 men with wrist fractures finds that median sick leave after injury was four weeks and almost a third of the group took no sick leave. It concludes that self-reported disability and pain as early as one week after injury are the strongest predictors of length of sickness absence, regardless of treatment.

Egund L et al. “Disability and pain are the best predictors of sick leave after a distal radius fracture in men”, Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation, 12 February 2020.

Workaholism does not affect performance

Workaholism does not affect work performance, according to this study of 102 entrepreneurs, managers and self-employed individuals who were followed for ten consecutive working days. Work engagement does affect performance, and in a positive way, the study also finds.

Balducci C et al. “The impact of workaholism on day-level workload and emotional exhaustion, and on longer-term job performance”, Work & Stress, published online 9 March 202.

Hand load and carpal tunnel syndrome

Hand load is positively associated with incidence rates of carpal tunnel syndrome, according to this Danish study. The study uses a nationwide register-based cohort study to identify first-time carpal tunnel syndrome diagnoses and to establish job groups and sex/age specific incidence rates per job group. It then links occupational codes with a job exposure matrix, calculating mean hand load per job group and plotting hand load against the incidence rates.

Tabatabaeifar S et al. “Carpal tunnel syndrome as sentinel for harmful hand activities at work: a nationwide Danish cohort study”, Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, published online 11 March 2020.

Bonuses promote drug abstinence at work

Paying employees a wage supplement for abstaining from drug or alcohol consumption can promote employment and reduce consumption of harmful substances, according to this randomised controlled trial in Baltimore. The 91 participants were randomly assigned to either a group receiving the usual employment services, or to a group that received employment services plus a bonus based on abstaining from drugs or alcohol. Those in the latter group provided significantly more opiate and cocaine-negative urine samples than the control group participants during the 12-month intervention.

Holtyn A F et al. “Abstinence-contingent wage supplements to promote drug abstinence and employment: a randomised controlled trial”, Epidemiology & Community Health, published online 27 February 2020.

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