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Emergence and preservation of a chronically sick building
  1. Åke Thörn
  1. Karolinska Institutet, Department of Public Health Sciences, Division of Social Medicine, Stockholm, Sweden and Yrkesmedicinska Enheten, Bodens Sjukhus, Boden, Sweden
  1. Dr Thörn, Yrkesmedicinska Enheten, Sunderby Sjukhus, 971 80 Luleå, Sweden (ake.thorn{at}


STUDY OBJECTIVE To investigate the merits of case studies as complementary methodological approaches in the study of the sick building syndrome.

SETTING AND PARTICIPANTS A Swedish office building with longstanding health problems, and its inhabitants.

DESIGN This paper is a case study based both on historical and present, quantitative as well as qualitative, documentary material, produced over the years by distinct parties, and on semi-structured interviews.

RESULTS Long drawn conflictive processes within the building were identified. It was revealed that the organisation for dealing with environmental problems was split, and ineffective with poor patterns of communication. It was suggested that this generated a situation of chronic stress leading to the persistence of symptoms.

CONCLUSIONS By their capacity to identify internal processes within building contexts, case study methodology can contribute to a better understanding and management of sick building syndrome. The results of this study suggest that psychosocial factors, among them organisational structures and communication patterns, should be given close attention.

  • case study
  • sick building syndrome

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  • Conflicts of interest: none.