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Pain and health related functioning among employees
  1. Peppiina Saastamoinen1,
  2. Päivi Leino-Arjas2,
  3. Mikko Laaksonen1,
  4. Pekka Martikainen3,
  5. Eero Lahelma1
  1. 1Department of Public Health, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
  2. 2The Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, Helsinki, Finland
  3. 3Department of Sociology, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland and Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
  1. Correspondence to:
 Ms P Saastamoinen
 Department of Public Health, University of Helsinki, PO Box 41, 00014 University of Helsinki, Finland; peppiina.saastamoinen{at}


Study objective: Although employees report high rates of pain, little is known about the effects of pain on health related functioning among them. This study examined the effects of pain on employees’ health related functioning by bodily locations of pain, number of painful locations, and whether pain was acute or chronic.

Design: Cross sectional questionnaire survey. Data on pain and health related functioning as measured with the eight subscales of the short form 36 health survey (SF-36) were obtained in the years 2001 and 2002.

Setting: Municipal employees of the City of Helsinki, Finland.

Participants: All employees who reached the age of 40, 45, 50, 55, and 60 years during each study year. Response rate was 66% (n = 5829).

Main results: Compared with those reporting no pain, those with pain had considerably poorer functioning on all SF-36 subscales. The lowest scores for health related functioning were seen in the physical domain of health, whereas the mental domain was less affected. The association of pain with functioning was practically independent of the bodily location of pain. Whether pain was acute or chronic had only a modest effect on functioning. Widest variation in functioning was found by the number of painful locations.

Conclusions: Among employees pain complaints, irrespective of the location, are associated with a decreased level of functioning. The number of painful locations is likely to be the most useful measure to identify employees with a high risk of poor functioning.

  • bodily location of pain
  • number of painful locations
  • chronic pain
  • employees
  • SF-36

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  • Funding: the Helsinki health study is supported by the Academy of Finland (number 205588 and number 45664). We thank the City of Helsinki, all participating employees, and members of the Helsinki health study group.

  • Conflicts of interest: none.

  • Ethical approval: the study protocol has been approved by ethical committees at the Department of Public Health, University of Helsinki, and the City of Helsinki health authorities.

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