Job demands and health complaints in white and blue collar workers

Work. 2008;31(4):425-32.


Background: General health in the working population is thought to depend on working conditions.

Objective: This survey studied job demands and health complaints in working white and blue collar employees. We expect physical and psychological job demands to be differentially distributed among white and blue collar workers. Do they report health complaints consistent with their working conditions?

Method: Cross-sectional study of 323 white and 383 blue collar workers. They completed the Basic Occupational Health Questionnaire, a valid and reliable self-report questionnaire about health, work and working conditions. The results were analysed using Chi-square and logistic regression analysis, controlling for educational level as a proxy of socioeconomic status.

Results: The questionnaires of 280 white and 251 blue collar workers were suitable for analysis. White collar workers reported higher psychological job demands, and blue collar workers reported higher physical demands. In both occupational groups, low back pain, fatigue and upper respiratory complaints were most common. The rates of low back pain and pain in the lower extremity were higher in blue collar workers, as were regular headaches, pain in the cardiac region and feeling sleepy. However, these relationships substantially weakened when the educational level was adjusted for.

Conclusions: Despite the differential distribution of job demands, white and blue collar workers reported similar health complaints. Health in the working population depended predominantly on socioeconomic status. Interventions to improve general health of employees should be directed at their socioeconomic position instead of working conditions.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Absenteeism
  • Adult
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Educational Status
  • Female
  • Health Status*
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Job Description*
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Netherlands
  • Occupational Health / statistics & numerical data*
  • Occupations / classification*
  • Physical Exertion
  • Social Class
  • Stress, Psychological / etiology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires