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Associations between fatigue attributions and fatigue, health, and psychosocial work characteristics: a study among employees visiting a physician with fatigue
  1. H Andrea1,
  2. IJ Kant2,
  3. A J H M Beurskens3,
  4. J F M Metsemakers1,
  5. C P van Schayck1
  1. 1Department of General Practice, Maastricht University, Maastricht, Netherlands
  2. 2Department of Epidemiology, Maastricht University, Maastricht, Netherlands
  3. 3Department of Epidemiology, Maastricht University; Hogeschool Zuyd, University of Professional Education, Department of Physiotherapy, Heerlen, Netherlands
  1. Correspondence to:
 Drs H Andrea, Department of General Practice, Maastricht University, PO Box 616, 6200 MD Maastricht, Netherlands;


Aims: To study associations between characteristics of employees active at work and making a fatigue related visit to the general practitioner (GP) or occupational physician (OP) in terms of fatigue, physical health problems, mental health problems, psychosocial work characteristics, and attributions of their fatigue complaints.

Methods: Self report questionnaires from the Maastricht Cohort Study Fatigue at Work were used to measure fatigue (Checklist Individual Strength, Maslach Burnout Inventory–General Survey), physical health problems (chronic illness), mental health problems (Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale), psychosocial work characteristics (Job Content Questionnaire), and fatigue attributions (somatic, psychological, none) in employees who made a fatigue related visit to the GP or OP over a six month period.

Results: In employees visiting only the GP, fatigue was an important reason to visit in one of seven (13.9%) employees. These fatigue related visits were in particular associated with high fatigue levels and mental health problems. A psychological fatigue attribution was reported by 41.8%, a somatic fatigue attribution by 44.0%. On a multivariate level, mental health problems showed the strongest association with psychological fatigue attributions, over and beyond fatigue itself. No associations were found between fatigue attributions and psychosocial work characteristics. Attributional patterns appeared to be different between visitors of the GP and the OP.

Conclusions: Fatigue is a common reason among employees to consult a GP. Asking employees for their own fatigue attributions in terms of somatic or psychological causes may be useful for the GP—and possibly also the OP—to gather information about underlying health problems in employees active at work and making a fatigue related visit.

  • fatigue attribution
  • working population
  • general practitioner
  • occupational physician
  • CIS, Checklist Individual Strength
  • GP, general practitioner
  • HAD, Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale
  • JCQ, Job Content Questionnaire
  • MBI-GS, Maslach Burnout Inventory–General Survey
  • OP, occupational physician

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