Background: Incomplete recovery from work-related fatigue after work (i.e., sustained activation) is assumed to mediate the relation between the exposure to stressful working conditions and the development of health problems. The need for recovery after work scale reflects the extent to which workers have difficulties to recover adequately from work-related fatigue after a working day.
Objectives: The aim of this study was to establish if need for recovery after work in truck drivers (1). predicts future sickness absence (>14 working days) and (2). mediates the prospective relation between stressful working conditions (low control, high job demands) and sickness absence.
Methods: Self-administered questionnaires, providing information about need for recovery after work, sickness absence, job control, and job demands (psychological, physical, and supervisor job demands), were sent to a random sample of 2000 drivers in 1998. Of the 1123 responders, 820 returned a completed questionnaire 2 years later (response 72%). This study was restricted to the 526 participants who still worked at follow-up as a truck driver at the same company.
Results: High baseline need for recovery after work was associated with an increased risk for subsequent sickness absence (odds ratio [OR] 2.19, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.13-4.24) after adjustment for age, previous sickness absence, marital status, educational level, and company size. Additional adjustment for baseline stressful working conditions led to a marginally reduction of the excess risk for sickness absence.
Conclusions: High need for recovery after work increases the risk of subsequent sickness absence that is not explained by relevant (non-) work-related factors. However, the results did not testify that need for recovery after work mediates between the exposure to stressful working conditions, and the subsequent occurrence of sickness absence. Practically, the results indicate that monitoring recovery complaints in truck drivers may assist practitioners to take efficient preventive measures at the appropriate time.