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Two important conclusions can be drawn from the study published by Vahtera et al 1 in this issue of the journal: (a) workers' sickness absence is related to working conditions, and (b) improvements in psychosocial working conditions reduce the risk of illness among workers. The negative effects on health of inadequate working conditions have long been recognised.2 But frequently, such effects are only consciously perceived both by workers and society at large through their most obvious consequences: occupational injuries and occupational illnesses. However, less specific diseases, such as musculoskeletal disorders, accounting for a great number of sick leave episodes, are related to the working conditions as well, including psychosocial factors.3 Besides, if interventions in the workplace to reduce sickness absence are to be implemented, evidence of their positive effects on the workers' health and well being are required.
Certainly, sick leave will usually be the consequence of any medical condition affecting occupationally active people. Sickness absence is often narrowly considered by society and by many organisations and enterprises as a problem of economics, and specific management programmes devoted to control and reduce the number and the duration of …