Working Conditions, Income Differences, and Sense of Coherence in Relation to Ill Health

University dissertation from Stockholm : Centrum för forskning om ojämlikhet i hälsa (CHESS)

Abstract: The licentiate thesis explored the relationship between working conditions and wage income, and the relationship between working conditions and sense of coherence in relation to ill health, focusing on cardiovascular disease, musculoskeletal pain, and psychological distress among the working population in Sweden. The studies were based on cross-sectional and longitudinal survey data (ULF and LNU), and on the Swedish census (FoB90) linked to the national cause of death registry. The samples included employed men and women residing in Sweden, aged 18-64.The main results show that working conditions contributed to income differences in CVD prevalence as well as CVD mortality irrespective of study design or way of assessing working conditions. Further, sense of coherence moderated, yet not consistently, the impact of working conditions on musculoskeletal pain and psychological distress. The moderating role seemed to vary by work exposure, gender and health outcome. Hence, the results do not support the hypothesis that sense of coherence is a global health-protective factor.The findings stress that future research into working conditions and employees’ health would benefit from including income in the analyses since wages are closely related to working conditions and to people’s position on the labour market. In addition, focusing on individual resources such as sense of coherence increases our undertanding of how individual differences in coping with adverse working conditions may affect health. Since the results also revealed considerable gender differences, suggesting that the factors that determine future work-related health are different for men and women, it is important to study men and women separately.

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