Maintaining high participation in the workforce of an ageing population is increasingly important in order to secure the financial basis of a welfare state and assure sustainable development of a country. Poor health is one of the driving forces behind withdrawal from the workforce. The working environment may have a major contribution to the development and manifestation of the health problems, leading to reduced work participation and premature exit from the workforce.

Objectives

The overall objective of the project is to synthesize knowledge from published studies with new results on the effects of the physical and psychosocial working environment on transitions between work, sickness absence (SA), temporary and permanent exit from the workforce (unemployment, disability retirement and premature old-age retirement). In addition, working life expectancy and healthy working life expectancy will be estimated for different occupational groups. The results are based on nationwide register and survey data from four Nordic countries, including Finland, Norway, Denmark and Sweden.

Methods

The Nordic countries have a long tradition in the establishment of longitudinal administrative register databases, which provide unique opportunities for examining transitions between work participation states during the working life span and thereby quantifying the life course effects of various health- and non-health-related pathways from work on the length of working life.

We will harmonize information provided by the NWDD to produce results comparable across the Nordic countries. In particular, we will make estimations of working life expectancy comparable between all four Nordic countries.

Implication

The distributions of work-related risk factors across occupational groups together with trends in occupation-specific incidence of diseases and their consequences for work participation provide an important basis for systematic risk assessment and evaluation of preventive potential, as well as for monitoring of the effectiveness of workplace and population level interventions. These data can be useful in the characterization of the work environment of various occupations, identification of occupational groups, which could benefit most from workplace interventions, and defining future research questions.

(Healthy) working life expectancy is a population health metric and can be used in the evaluation of the long-term consequences of occupational exposures. The cross-national comparative estimates can produce higher generalizability than country-specific estimates and identify applicable policies and practices to enhance work participation and prolong working life.

The information generated during the project will form the Nordic Work Disability Database (NWDD), which can be seen as a knowledge resource for policy makers, professionals and experts working in occupational health services. It can also serve as a surveillance tool for monitoring secular trends in occupational exposures, work participation and healthy working life expectancy.

SCHEDULE

2019–2022

FUNDERS AND OTHER IMPLEMENTERS

The project is funded by Nordic Council of Ministers, The Nordic Working Environment Committee. This is a collaborative project between Finland, Norway, Denmark and Sweden.

Participating institutions