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Work Health Promotion, Job Well-Being, and Sickness Absences—A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

Kuoppala, Jaana MD, PhD; Lamminpää, Anne MD, PhD; Husman, Päivi MSocSc

Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine: November 2008 - Volume 50 - Issue 11 - p 1216-1227
doi: 10.1097/JOM.0b013e31818dbf92
Original Articles

Objective: The aim of this systematic literature analysis was to study the association between work health promotion and job well-being, work ability, absenteeism, and early retirement. This systematic review is a part of a large research project studying multiple workplace factors and interventions that may affect workers' health and well-being.

Methods: Original articles published in 1970 to 2005 were searched in Medline and PsycINFO databases, the main search terms being health promotion, well-being, work ability, sick leave, and disability pension. Out of 1312 references and 35 potentially eligible publications, 10 studies were included in the analysis. Other sources producing 36 eligible studies, 46 studies in total were included in the analysis.

Results: There is moderate evidence that work health promotion decreases sickness absences (risk ratio [RR], 0.78; range, 0.10 to 1.57) and work ability (RR, 1.38; range, 1.15 to 1.66). It also seems to increase mental well-being (RR, 1.39; range, 0.98 to 1.91), but not physical well-being. There is no evidence on disability pension. Exercise seems to increase overall well-being (RR, 1.25; range, 1.05 to 1.47) and work ability (RR, 1.38; range, 1.15 to 1.66), but education and psychological methods do not seem to affect well-being or sickness absences. Sickness absences seem to be reduced by activities promoting healthy lifestyle (RR, 0.80; range, 0.74 to 0.93) and ergonomics (RR, 0.72; range, 0.13 to 1.57).

Conclusions: Work health promotion is valuable on employees' well-being and work ability and productive in terms of less sickness absences. Activities involving exercise, lifestyle, and ergonomics are potentially effective. On the other hand, education and psychological means applied alone do not seem effective. Work health promotion should target both physical and psychosocial environments at work.

From the Siinto, Sievi (Dr Kuoppala); State Treasury, Division of Insurance, Helsinki (Dr Lamminpää); and Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, Helsinki, Finland (Ms Husman).

Address correspondence to: Anne Lamminpää, MD, PhD, P.O. BOX 10, 000054 State Treasury (Helsinki), Finland; E-mail:

Copyright © 2008 by the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine