Objectives. This paper systematically reviews the scientific literature on the effects of individual and work related factors on the work ability index.
Methods. Studies on work ability published from 1985 to 2006 were identified through a structured search in PubMed, and Web of Science. Studies were included if the Work Ability Index (WAI) was used as measure of work ability (defined by the extent to which a worker's capabilities is matched by the demands at work) and if quantitative information was presented on determinants of work ability. The methodological quality of studies was assessed.
Results. In total, 20 studies were included with 14 cross-sectional studies and 6 longitudinal studies. Factors associated with a poor work ability, as defined by WAI were lack of leisure-time vigorous physical activity, poor musculoskeletal capacity, older age, obesity, high mental work demands, lack of autonomy, poor physical work environment, and high physical work load. No differences were found in quality of the study for study design, type of determinant or significance of reported associations.
Conclusion. The work ability indexis associated with individual characteristics, lifestyle, demands at work, and physical condition. This multifactorial nature of work ability should be taken into account in health promotion programmes aimed at maintaining and promoting the participation of the labour force and improvement of the performance at work.
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