Introduction We investigated whether self-perceived work ability related to co-occurring musculoskeletal and mental symptoms has changed over time.
Methods Five cross-sectional telephone surveys were conducted triennially in 1997–2009 among representative samples of working Finns (n=2000–2400/survey year, total N=11 000). The risk of reduced work ability related to musculoskeletal pain and mental symptoms was estimated with log-binomial regression for each survey year separately. Current work ability was assessed with a scale from 0 to 10 (reduced ability: 0–7). Musculoskeletal pain concerned prolonged or recurrent pain in the neck, shoulders/arms, wrist/fingers, low back, or hips/lower extremities. Mental symptoms included feelings of depression, tiredness, irritability, difficulties to concentrate, and sleep problems. Models were adjusted for age, gender, education, BMI, smoking, chronic illnesses, physical and psychosocial work exposures, accidents at work, threat of unemployment, and family problems.
Results One-month prevalence of co-occurring pain and mental symptoms as well as that of self-perceived work ability remained stable in 1997-2009. The adjusted prevalence ratios of reduced work ability related to having both pain and mental symptoms increased from 2.7 (95% CI 1.7 to 4.2) in 1997 to 4.7 (95% CI 2.9 to 7.8) in 2009 (Abstract P2-452 figure 1). Changes in the risk of reduced work ability associated with musculoskeletal or mental symptoms only were less marked.
Conclusions The considerable increase that occurred during 12 years in the risk of reduced work ability implies that workers with co-occurring musculoskeletal and mental symptoms presently experience less ability to work than before, irrespective of assessed changes in for example, physical or psychosocial work exposures.
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