Lindén, V. (1969).Brit. J. industr. Med.,26, 47-53. Absence from work and physical fitness. The distribution of sickness absence in a given population is not one of chance but is governed by the nature of the individuals making up the group. Earlier studies strongly suggested that an individual factor was operating. The present paper is concerned with the possible influence of a physical factor. Are those who repeatedly absent themselves from work less physically fit than those who do not, and are the former, in carrying out their work, overtaxing their respiratory and circulatory systems? Pilot studies were carried out on 203 employees from different occupations. Physical fitness was determined by measurement of the maximal oxygen uptake during performance of dynamic work. A bicycle ergometer of the mechanical braking type was used.
For 51 customs officers, an inverse relationship between maximal oxygen uptake and number of absences from work was found. No such relationship was found for 56 firemen, which might have been expected because they form a selective group. So far as male and female office workers were concerned, no relationship was found between the maximal oxygen uptake and number of absences. Some morphological recordings were also made. No relationship was found between the data for height, weight or skinfold thickness and the maximal oxygen uptake or number of absences.
Continuous, telemetric heart rate recording, which roughly indicates the level of oxygen uptake, was performed in 10 employees from different occupations during whole working days. Five were `repeaters', i.e., persons with many sickness absences for different and unrelated conditions, occupied with non-sedentary work. They were found to have much higher heart rate recordings than some of their fellow-workers used as controls. The former thus made higher demands on their vital systems than the latter, and they were physically overtaxed by their daily work. No investigation was made in this study with regard to the extent these men may be trained physically. Three were postmen who had been following that occupation for more than 20 years; they did not seem to benefit from the physical training apparently involved in their work. Repeaters having subnormal physical fitness will probably never be able to cope with strenuous physical work. Preventive measures such as physical training programmes should be taken early in their lives. Vocational guidance at the start of their working careers is also necessary.
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