Background: Studies about work ability have grown in importance owing to the worldwide aging of active populations. Research has shown that measuring work ability has a predictive value in cases of long-term sickness absence and early retirement. Our goal was to analyze the work ability and associated factors of civil servants from a higher education institution in Brazil. The participants in this cross-sectional study were 600 technical-administrative workers at a public university. Work ability was measured using the work ability index.
Results: The participants were as follows: 51.8% male; mean age of 45 years (SD = ±11); married or in a stable union (61.5%); holding a graduate degree (56.7%); having only one job (83.3%), working 40 h a week or less (78.6%); not working evenings (79.8%); and having direct contact with the public (58.3%). The prevalence of reduced work ability was 13.9%. The following factors were found to be associated with reduced work ability: age 50 years old or above (PR = 2.58; 95% CI 1.25-5.09); female (PR = 2.77; 95% CI 1.25-3.60); education up to secondary school (PR = 2.37; 95% CI 1.13-3.59); overall poor self-assessed health (PR = 2.96; 95% CI 1.32-3.93); signs and symptoms of depression (PR = 4.86; 95% CI 2.23-6.55); sedentariness (PR = 3.00; 95% CI 1.38-4.68) and poor social support at work (PR = 4.01; 95% CI 1.66-4.37).
Conclusions: Most of the participants showed good work ability, but some subjects had reduced work ability. This study makes a contribution to expanding the discussion about the factors associated with work ability toward proposing actions for maintaining that ability or helping recovery in the case of diminished ability. Such actions can help reduce work absenteeism and early retirement, both of which have a social and economic impact in Brazil. Studying the determinants of work ability and recommendations to address those determinants will help efforts to improve the quality of life of individuals, both at work and personally, and promote healthy aging.