Purpose: This study was conducted to compare Swedish and Australian dental hygienist in regards to working conditions, health, and mental well being and to further develop a health model for this profession.
Methods: Questionnaires (a 275-item instrument) were sent to all 376 Australian dental hygienist and a random sample of 26% (n=575) of Swedish dental hygienist. Country-specific factors--such as work characteristics and life style--and their relationships to self-related health and mental well being were analyzed. Interaction effects of age times country were studied by two-factor ANOVA. Discriminant functions were used to predict country and age group memberships, and multiple logistic regression modeling for a health model was tested.
Results: The response rate was 86% (N=495) in Sweden and 71% (N=254) in Australia. Work-related musculoskeletal disorders, professional ambition, and demands from difficult patients were the factors most different for the two countries--generally the values were higher for Australia than Sweden. Arthritic hands/loss of sensitivity in the arm-hand and intellectual job satisfaction were found more often in dental hygienist more than 42 years old. than in dental hygienist ages under 42 years old. Professional ambition was higher for those under 42. Working 25 hours or more per week with clinical work, engaging in active leisure, being under age 42, and high management support at work, relate to good general health. Work-family overload was associated with lower general health, while higher mental well-being was related to high perception of personal mastery and high management support. There also was a correlation between lower mental well-being was and high work-family overload, work efficiency, and practicing in Australia. Work-family overload, scaling procedures, work relations, practicing in Australia, and being under 42 years of age were associated with more musculoskeletal disorders.
Conclusion: An earlier hypothetical work and health model, on which this study was based, was expanded with these factors: country-specific work setting, age, and work relations. Australian dental hygienist and more musculoskeletal disorders and experienced lower mental well being related to organizational work factors than did Swedish dental hygienist. The results suggest a need to consider sociodemographic, occupational, and cultural aspects in future studies of work, health, and well being.