Psychosocial work environment and healthy ageing

This project focuses on a question that has high societal relevance and is timely because the proportion of employees under adverse psychosocial work environments is likely to increase as organisations and businesses have to weather the ongoing economic recession.

The workplace, along with the school, primary care and hospital, has been established as one of the priority settings for health promotion. Work-related factors may influence the health of employees in various ways and, in the long run, contribute to healthy ageing. This project generates new evidence to reliably evaluate the importance of these factors at a population level:

First, we determine the strength of the association between work-related psychosocial factors and health using individual-participant data from 26 high-quality cohort studies (N = 268 286). In meta-analysis, we complement these data with results from published studies identified by systematic literature searches.

Second, we test the hypothesised psychological, behavioural and biological pathways linking work-related psychosocial factors to health and disability using longitudinal modelling of repeat data from 4 to 28 follow-ups in four long-term cohort studies.

Third, we analyse temporal aspects, based on linkage of records from national health and employment registers for Danish workforce (N = 1.7 million) to determine dose-response associations and whether reductions in exposure to work-related psychosocial risk factors are followed by reductions in the disease incidence (reversibility). We repeat these analyses using data from Swedish workforce (N = 4.9 million).

Fourth, we examine whether gender, age or socioeconomic circumstances modify the associations and whether the results vary between Nordic and other European countries and the United States.

The results of this project will characterise more precisely than has previously been possible the role of work-related psychosocial factors as determinants of healthy ageing. The proposed work will contribute to evidence-based policies aimed at improving public health, reducing health inequalities and extending work careers. 

Facts about the project
Project leader

Mika Kivimäki