Background: Selection into and out of a profession is a known phenomenon in jobs such as hairdressing, in which the workers are exposed to agents and conditions capable of causing work-related symptoms and diseases.
Objective: To assess the risk for departure from the profession due to health and other reasons among hairdressers as compared with women engaged in commercial work.
Methods: We used a self-administered questionnaire to provide data on 3484 female hairdressers and 3357 referents with regard to their reasons for leaving the profession during the 15-year follow-up period of 1980 1995, for which the relative risks (RR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) were calculated. The data were collected in August 1995.
Results: Of the reasons studied, only the concern for health increased the risk of leaving the profession (RR 1.33; 95% CI 1.16-1.52) among hairdressers. The risk of hairdressers having to leave the profession (1) because of asthma or hand eczema was 3.5 times as great as that found among the control group, (2) because of a strain injury of the wrist or elbow was 2.7 times as great, and (3) because of diseases of the neck or shoulders was 1.7 times as great. The risk of leaving the profession was approximately 20% higher for hairdressers who had suffered at some point in their lives from an atopic disease.
Conclusions: Hairdressers suffering from atopic diseases, hand eczema, and strain injuries of the elbow and wrist are at higher risk of leaving the profession. Active modes of intervention are needed to maintain their working ability. The tools available in the occupational health service are: information on hazards, optimization of working conditions, personal protection, and timely medical care and rehabilitation.