Background: The aim of this study was to investigate what exposure to work demands, physical and psychosocial, is associated with lower levels of sickness absence among workers with neck or upper back pain in different groups, by age, gender, duration of sickness absence and work ability score.
Methods: This study was a prospective study of 4567 workers with neck or upper back pain. Data on neck or upper back pain, work demand and work ability were obtained from the Swedish Work Environment survey over a 3-year period (2009-2013). Register data on sickness absence, 1 year after each survey was conducted, were obtained from the Swedish health insurance database. Analyses were performed to estimate the association between self-reported work demands and registered sick days > 14 days. The analyses were stratified for gender, age group and work ability score.
Results: Lower numbers of sick days were found for workers reporting low exposure to lifting ≥15 kg and twisted or forward-leaning work postures. Lower numbers of sick days were found for workers reporting high work control and seated work. The associations were generally stronger in the older age groups for the physical work demands.
Conclusions: The findings in this study suggest that certain physical work demands and having high control over one's work can result in lower sickness absence, especially among middle-aged and older workers with neck or upper back pain.
Keywords: Occupation; Occupational health; WAI; Work ability.