Finnish Institute of Occupational Health media release 25 January 2024
Data for 2019 and 2020 have now also been published from the Finnish Register of Occupational Diseases. They show that the aggregate number of recognized and suspected cases of occupational diseases as well as the number of recognized cases of occupational diseases continued their already familiar downward trend in 2019. In 2020, however, the number of cases turned to an upwards direction.
In 2019, a total of 1,067 cases of occupational diseases were recognised, 710 of which were from the working-age population. In 2020, a total of 1,067 cases of occupational diseases were recognised, 792 of which were from the working-age population. Slightly more than a quarter of all recognized cases of occupational diseases were diagnosed in people over 65 years of age.
COVID-19 explains the increase in the number of cases
The primary underlying reason for the upswing was the COVID-19 pandemic. COVID-19 resulted in 115 recognized cases of occupational diseases, i.e. cases recognized by insurance companies. The majority of the cases involved work in the health and social services sector.
“Women accounted for about 90 per cent of these COVID-19 cases of recognized occupational diseases, and almost all cases were recognized in the health services or social welfare sector,” chief physician Kirsi Koskela points out.
Cryptospridiosis cases indicate the presence of an epidemic
Another significant factor underlying the increase in the number of cases of recognized occupational diseases is cryptosporidiosis, i.e. calf diarrhoea, which is also an infectious disease. The number of cryptosporidioses has increased significantly since 2018, which in part indicates the presence of an epidemic.
There were 47 recognized cases of cryptosporidiosis in the working-age population in 2019, and 54 cases in 2020. Only about 10% of the cryptosporidiosis cases registered in the National Infectious Diseases Register during those years were recognized as occupational diseases. The majority of the cases are diagnosed in the agriculture sector.
The spectra of occupational diseases still differs between men and women
Differences continue to remain between the spectra and number of occupational diseases of men and women, although the proportion of women increased due to recognized cases of COVID-19. In 2020, of all recognized cases of occupational disease in the working-age population, 58 per cent were registered for men and 42 per cent for women.
In 2020, noise-induced hearing loss and allergic contact dermatitis were the most commonly recognized occupational diseases among working-age men, whereas COVID-19 infection and irritant contact dermatitis were the most common among women.
The number of recognized cases of asbestos-related diseases has steadily decreased, but they continue to occur. This is associated with the long delay from exposure to the diagnosis of an asbestos-related disease. The majority of asbestos-related diseases are diagnosed in over 65-year-olds. The most common of these is pleural plaques.
In addition to these data years, the publication ‘Recognized and suspected occupational diseases 2019–2020’ comprises adjusted figures for the number of cases of occupational diseases in 2016–2018. The adjustment to the numbers of cases is related to problems detected in the insurance company data. The latest publication also contains industry-specific tables as a new feature.
- Kirsi Koskela, chief physician, Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, kirsi.koskela [at] ttl.fi (kirsi[dot]koskela[at]ttl[dot]fi), tel. +358 (0)43 820 0452
- Ville Ojanen, specialist, Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, ville.ojanen [at] ttl.fi (ville[dot]ojanen[at]ttl[dot]fi), tel. +358 (0)50 478 7296