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Differential Effects of Mental and Physical Health and Coping Style on Work Ability: A 1-Year Follow-Up Study Among Aging Workers

van de Vijfeijke, Hanneke MSc; Leijten, Fenna R. M. MSc; Ybema, Jan Fekke PhD; van den Heuvel, Swenne G. PhD; Robroek, Suzan J. W. PhD; van der Beek, Allard J. PhD; Burdorf, Alex PhD; Taris, Toon W. PhD

Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine: October 2013 - Volume 55 - Issue 10 - p 1238–1243
doi: 10.1097/JOM.0b013e3182a2a5e1
Original Articles

Objective: This study examines whether mental and physical health relate differently to work ability and whether these associations vary with coping style.

Methods: A 1-year longitudinal study was conducted among 8842 employees aged 45 to 64 years from the Study on Transitions in Employment, Ability and Motivation. On-line questionnaires measured self-perceived mental and physical health at baseline and coping and work ability at follow-up. The data were analyzed using hierarchical regression analysis.

Results: Active coping and good mental and especially physical health predicted high work ability at follow-up. Avoidant coping was negatively related to work ability. Seeking support was unrelated to work ability. Interaction effects of coping and health on work ability were weak.

Conclusions: Successful coping styles and good health predict high work ability, and thus, promoting such factors can help improve sustainable employability.

From the Department of Social and Organizational Psychology (Ms Vijfeijke and Dr Taris), Utrecht University, Utrecht, the Netherlands; Department of Public Health (Ms Leijten and Drs Robroek and Burdorf), Erasmus MC, University Medical Center, Rotterdam, the Netherlands; Netherlands Organization for Applied Scientific Research (TNO) (Ms Leijten and Drs Ybema and van den Heuvel), Hoofddorp, the Netherlands; Department of Public and Occupational Health (Dr van der Beek), the EMGO Institute for Health and Care Research, VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam, the Netherlands; and Body@Work (Dr van der Beek), Research Center on Physical Activity, Work and Health, TNO-VU/VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

Address correspondence to: Jan Fekke Ybema, PhD, Netherlands Organization for Applied Scientific Research (TNO), PO Box 718, 2130 NL Hoofddorp, the Netherlands (

This study received financial support from Netherlands Organization for Applied Scientific Research (TNO) and the Dutch Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment.

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Copyright © 2013 by the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine