Aims: To explore the frequency, nature, determinants and outcome of health-related job loss (HRJL) in men sampled from the general population of three rural areas.
Methods: Data on lifetime occupational history, including any HRJL, were obtained as part of a postal survey of men aged 24–70 years in three rural areas of England and Wales. Incidence rates were calculated for first health-related loss of a job that had been held for ⩾1 year. Associations with risk factors were examined by Poisson regression, and by application of conditional logistic regression in a nested case–control study.
Results: HRJL was reported by 1408 (13%) of the 10 559 men who had held long-term jobs. The incidence rose steeply with age for cardiorespiratory and neurological disorders, but for accidents and poisoning the trend was, if anything, in the reverse direction. An increase in incidence over time was most marked for musculoskeletal disorders and mental illness, and much less prominent for cardiorespiratory and neurological disease. In comparison with other occupations, the risk was lower in agricultural workers (odds ratio (OR) 0.6, 95% CI 0.5 to 0.8), and higher in policemen (OR 2.4, 95% CI 1.6 to 3.7) and teachers (OR 2.0, 95% CI 1.5 to 2.7), this differential being even greater for HRJL caused by mental illness. Risk was also increased in employees relative to the self-employed (OR 2.0, 95% CI 1.7 to 2.3). Shift work was associated with a higher incidence of job loss caused by mental illness (OR 1.5, 95%CI 1.1–2.2), and heavy lifting with HRJL caused by musculoskeletal disorders (OR 2.6, 95% CI 2.0 to 3.5). After HRJL, 61% of subjects had subsequently obtained further long-term employment, usually within 1 year.
Conclusions: In the population studied, HRJL has become increasingly common, especially in relation to musculoskeletal disorders and mental illness. In addition to being associated with ergonomic stresses in the workplace, it may be importantly influenced by cultural and economic factors. Future research should focus on the minority of workers who leave a job for health reasons and do not rapidly return to further work.
- HRJL, health-related job loss
- IRR, incidence rate ratio
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Published Online First 9 November 2006
Competing interests: None declared.