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Occupational Health

In our research, we aim to identify the risk factors for poor health in working populations. We also study the specific role health plays in entering and maintaining paid employment. Finally, we focus on designing and evaluating preventive interventions that contribute to a longer working life in good health.

Occupational healthWorking longer in good health
In a society with an ageing population, one of the most important challenges is enabling people to work longer in good health. An individual's working ability, sick leave and productivity are negatively impacted by work-related factors such as physical workload and psychosocial factors at work. These factors often constitute larger risks than individual characteristics and lifestyle. Our research in occupational health has a well-recognized societal impact. We advise various organisations and companies on health-related labour force participation and health management in order to increase working ability among older workers.

Some of our recent contributions

  • Evaluating the effectiveness of preventive health interventions at work - In a systematic review on participation in workplace health promotion programmes, we found a modest overall participation of 30%. Men and women have different preferences for health promotion activities. These findings made apparent that design and implementation of primary preventive interventions are more complex than previously thought (Robroek et al. Int J Behav nutr Physical Activity 2009;6:26)
  • Studying the impact of a health promotion program among long-term unemployed - Poor health is an important barrier in gaining and regaining access to the labour market. A study among long-term unemployed persons in the city of Rotterdam showed no effects of a health promotion programme on either health or reintegration to paid employment. (Schuring et al. J Epidemiol commun Health 2009;63:893-9)
  • Work and health in early arthritis - In close collaboration between the departments of Public Health and Rheumatology, we study the interrelationships between work and health in a cohort of people with early arthritis. Our research demonstrates the importance of guidance to improve workers' internally perceived health control (Geuskens et al. Scand J Work Environ Health 2008;34:420-9)

Ongoing projects

  • Health and paid employment
    Studies are conducted on (1) effects of illness perception on reintegration into paid employment, (2) time-dependent associations between ill health and quitting a job, and (3) cost-effectiveness of integrated reintegration programmes for health and reintegration.
  • Workability and health
    Studies are ongoing on (1) influence of work characteristics and lifestyle on workability and sustained employment in various occupations, (2) effects of ill health on productivity at work and working life expectancy, and (3) effectiveness of interventions on reduced workability.
  • Health promotion at the workplace
    We investigate (1) the cost-effectiveness of health promotion programmes at the workplace, combinng personal guidance and internet-tailored advice, and (2) barriers and facilitators for (sustained) participation in these programmes.
  • Chronic diseases and work
    Chronic diseases affect working careers profoundly. We study whether a self-management programme for workers with rheumatoid arthritis will support them to remain productive at work and feel in better health.
  • Endocrine disrupters at the workplace
    In the Rotterdam birth cohort study we investigate the influence of exposure to endocrine disrupters on reproductive disorders. This European consortium will develop a new marker of total endocrine exposure that will be tested for validity in urine samples of pregant mothers.
  • Physical load and musculoskeletal disorders
    Studies are conducted to (1) establish exposure-response relationships between lifting and awkward postures and various MSD, (2) evaluate effective ergonomic and organisational interventions, and (3) facilitate appropriate implementation of effective interventions.