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The effects of work-related and individual factors on the Work Ability Index: a systematic review
  1. T I J van den Berg1,
  2. L A M Elders1,
  3. B C H de Zwart2,
  4. A Burdorf1
  1. 1
    Department of Public Health, Erasmus MC, Rotterdam, the Netherlands
  2. 2
    AStri Research and Consultancy Group, Leiden, the Netherlands
  1. Alex Burdorf, Erasmus MC, Department of Public Health, PO Box 2040, 3000 CA Rotterdam, The Netherlands; a.burdorf{at}


This paper systematically reviews the scientific literature on the effects of individual and work-related factors on the Work Ability Index (WAI)

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 WAI was used as measure of work ability and if quantitative information was presented on determinants of work ability.

In total, 20 studies were included with 14 cross-sectional studies and six longitudinal studies. Factors associated with 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.

The WAI is 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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  • Competing interests: None declared.