The Finnish Institute of Occupational Health is a specialist in well-being at work, which carries out research, and provides services and training. The proportion of research is about 30% of working hours.
Strategic research focuses on

  • Work ability and working careers
  • Successful digitalization
  • SMEs and growth
  • Transforming occupational health services

Some research results 2018

Work-related stress is especially dangerous for men with medical conditions

According to a wide-ranging international study, work-related stress is especially dangerous for men with diabetes that has required hospital treatment, or men who have suffered a heart attack or stroke.

A study carried out in Finland, France, Sweden, and Britain followed over 100 000 participants from 1985–2002.

Of these, those who experienced work-related stress were at almost a two-fold risk of premature death compared to men with the same medical conditions who did not report experiencing work-related stress.

The study examined the association between work-related stress and mortality in Finland, France, Sweden, and Britain. A total of 100 000 people participated, and were followed from 1985–2002 onwards.

At the start of the study, the participants answered questions about their lifestyle, work and health. At the end of the 14-year follow-up, about 3800 people had died. According to the results, men who experienced work-related stress stress and were chronically ill were at a 1.7-fold risk of dying compared to those with the same illnesses, but no work-related stress.

We did not gather detailed information on the cause of death. Cardiovascular mortality was, however, clearly elevated.
– Mika Kivimäki, Professor of Epidemiology, who works at the University of Helsinki and the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health.

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Eye movement based metric serving as an on-site test metric for time awake

Eye movements can be used to study tiredness, lack of sleep as well as disturbances of attentiveness.

Prolonged time awake increases the need to sleep and causes sleepiness. It has been estimated that sleepiness causes 10–20 % of traffic accidents hence being a major identifiable and preventable cause of accidents. Even though the severity of sleepiness-related accidents and hazards have been recognized, there is no reliable on-site tester for estimating total time awake of a person. An objective and practical metrics for measuring sleepiness outside the laboratory is needed.

In her doctoral thesis researcher, Licentiate of Philosophy Kati Pettersson is presenting a novel approach to this and examines whether an eye movement based metric could serve as an on-site test metric for time awake.

The thesis consists of two parts. Algorithm development for electro-oculographic (EOG) feature extraction to enable effective and practical analyses of measurements conducted outside the laboratory, and development of an eye movement based metric to estimate prolonged time awake.

The rationale for the studying the use of eye movements to estimate overall time awake is as follows: Different cognitive functions, especially attentional ones are vulnerable to sleepiness. The attentional and oculomotor processes share neuroanatomical networks in the brain and saccadic eye movements have been used to study attentional functions. Moreover, saccadic eye movements are sensitive to sleepiness.
– Kati Pettersson, researcher at FIOH

Increasing sleep drive induces rapid and uncontrolled sleep initiation leading to unstable cognitive performance which is comparable to alcohol intoxication.

Eleven healthy adults were tested during 60 hours of time awake

Saccadic eye movements were measured from eleven healthy adults every sixth hour with EOG in a 8-minute saccade task during 60 hours of prolonged time awake. The study finds that the saccade task performance, estimated as the number of saccades, decreased as a function of time awake on an individual level.

The saccadic performance differed between the participants but was stable within participants; this was tested with 5 participants.

The circadian rhythm affected the saccade task performance. Thus, the three process model of alertness (TPMA) was fitted to, and the circadian component was removed from the measured data. After removing the C-component, the linear model revealed a significant trend for six out of eleven participants.

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Most Finns sleep well or fairly well

According to recent research more than 70 per cent of working age Finns sleep well or fairly well based on a long term follow-up research study. The cohort study conducted by the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health and University of Helsinki followed the sleep quality of more than 4 800 persons over the course of 36 years.

The results of the cohort study were reported in the Journal of Sleep Research.

The published results complement our understanding of sleep quality in the general population. Even though temporary sleeping disorders seem to have become more commonplace, the majority of people experience that they sleep well or fairly well. The research results are positive considering the multitude of connections between sleep and general health.

Christer Hublin, Assistant chief medical officer, FIOH.

Differences in results explained by differences in research methods

The participants in the research answered a survey four times in the years of 1975, 1981, 1990 and 2011. Only a very small fraction of the adults in this long follow-up consistently slept poorly.

Of all the adults, 71 per cent slept well or fairly well at each time-point throughout the follow-up and one out of two hundred people slept poorly or fairly poorly.

– In this research study we were asking about the quality of sleep in general whereas earlier research studies have focused on the level of sleep disturbances experienced over the previous month. Temporary sleep disturbances are very common in the population and these can also be experienced by people who sleep well in the longer term, says professor Jaakko Kaprio from the University of Helsinki.

Significant connection between sleep and health

The cohort study also investigated if health problems and age have a connection with sleep quality. Sleeping poorly or fairly poorly was reported 15 times more frequently by those rating their health as fairly poor than by those rating their health as very good. There was a strong association between indicators of depression and poor sleep.

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Biosignals reflect pair-dynamics in collaborative work – study published in Scientific Reports

A study of 56 university students found that assessing collaboration merely from physiology in natural settings is plausible. Study shows that by analysing electrodermal activity (EDA) and heart rate variation (HRV) of collaborating dyads the teacher can assess collaboration within her classroom.

The activation of sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system during task performance was measured using electrodermal activity and electrocardiography.

Collaborative work and cooperation may be assessed with physiological signals such as skin responses and changes in heart rate. Objective and automated evaluation of group dynamics is scalable and cost effective. Such methods could be implemented in promoting well-being at work and operational efficiency in organisations such as work-places with organic team structure.
Lauri Ahonen, Research engineer at FIOH.

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Occupation-specific risks of disability retirement due to hip osteoarthritis suggest major prevention potential of workplace interventions for male

Occupation-specific risks of disability retirement due to hip osteoarthritis suggest major prevention potential of workplace interventions for male manual workers

A nationwide Finnish register study covering a nine-year period from 2005 to 2013 found marked occupational differences in disability retirement due to hip osteoarthritis (OA). Among men, the overall age-adjusted incidence rate of full disability retirement was 25 per 100,000 person years during the nine-year period.

Our findings suggest that among male manual workers the risk of disability retirement due to hip OA could be reduced by 24 (professional drivers) to 88% (construction workers, electricians and plumbers), if the physical work load factors would be at the level of that among professionals.

The physical work load that explained the highest contribution to the excess risk for most of the male occupations was kneeling and squatting.
– Dr. Svetlana Solovieva, Senior researcher at FIOH.

Occupations with statistically significantly higher incidence rate than the population average included construction workers, electricians and plumbers, agricultural and fishery workers, unskilled transport, construction and manufacturing workers, metal and machinery workers, as well as professional drivers. Work tasks in these occupations are often physically heavy and also involve heavy lifting as well as kneeling and squatting.

The age-adjusted incidence rate of full disability retirement in women was 22 per 100,000 person years. The physical work load factors contributed to a smaller extent to the occupational differences in disability retirement among women.

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