Medical and social prognoses of non-specific building-related symptoms (Sick Building Syndrome): a follow-up study of patients previously referred to hospital

Int Arch Occup Environ Health. 2008 Jul;81(7):805-12. doi: 10.1007/s00420-007-0267-z. Epub 2007 Oct 9.


Objectives: The aim of this study was to describe and analyse the medical and social prognoses of patients with non-specific building-related symptoms.

Methods: A follow-up questionnaire focusing on current medical and social status, care, treatment, other actions taken and personality traits was sent to 239 patients with non-specific building-related symptoms assessed during the period between 1986 and 1998 at University Hospital in Umeå, Sweden. The response rate was 79%.

Results: Fatigue, irritation of the eyes, and facial erythema were the most common weekly symptoms reported at follow-up. As females constituted 92% of the respondents, statistical analyses were restricted to women. The level and severity of symptoms decreased over time, although nearly half of the patients claimed that symptoms were more or less unchanged after 7 years or more, despite actions taken. Twenty-five percent of the patients were on the sick-list, and 20% drew disability pension due to persistent symptoms at follow-up. The risk of having no work capabilities at follow-up was significantly increased if the time from onset to first visit at the hospital clinic was more than 1 year. This risk was also significantly higher if the patient at the first visit had five or more symptoms. All risk assessments were adjusted for length of follow-up. Symptoms were often aggravated by different situations in everyday life.

Conclusions: Long-lasting symptoms aggravated by environmental factors exist within this group of patients. The results support that early and comprehensive measures for rehabilitation are essential for the patients.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medical Records
  • Middle Aged
  • Prognosis
  • Rehabilitation, Vocational
  • Sick Building Syndrome / epidemiology
  • Sick Building Syndrome / physiopathology*
  • Sick Leave / statistics & numerical data*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Sweden / epidemiology