Work conditions and socioeconomic inequalities in work ability

Scand J Work Environ Health. 2003 Apr;29(2):159-65. doi: 10.5271/sjweh.718.


Objectives: The objective of this study was to investigate socioeconomic inequalities in work ability among municipal employees and the contribution of work conditions to these inequalities.

Methods: The subjects were employees of the City of Helsinki and were all over 40 years of age. Data (N=1,827) were collected in the age-group-based medical check-ups by occupational health personnel. Work ability was measured with a work ability index. The association between the work ability index with socioeconomic status was examined by fitting logistic regression models.

Results: There was a consistent gradient in work ability, lower socioeconomic groups having poorer work ability. Adjusting for physical stress accounted for a substantial part of the socioeconomic inequalities. Adjusting for possibilities for influence and development at work accounted for some of the difference between white-collar and blue-collar employees, but not for differences between the white-collar subgroups among the women. Mental stress and problems in the social environment were not clearly associated with the inequalities.

Conclusions: Socioeconomic inequalities in work ability among municipal employees correspond to the inequalities in ill health found in general populations. Physical stress at work explained a large part of the inequality. Poor possibilities to influence one's work contributed to the excess of lowered work ability among the blue-collar employees, but not to the inequalities between white-collar subgroups of women. Apart from physical workload, work conditions did not explain socioeconomic inequalities between white-collar subgroups of women.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Cohort Studies
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Employment
  • Environment
  • Female
  • Finland
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Job Satisfaction*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Occupational Health*
  • Odds Ratio
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Factors
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Stress, Psychological
  • Urban Population
  • Work Capacity Evaluation
  • Workload*
  • Workplace