Work Conditions, Recovery and Health: A Study among Workers within Pre-School, Home Care and Social Work

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  1. Gunnar Aronsson*,
  2. Wanja Astvik and
  3. Klas Gustafsson

  1. Gunnar Aronsson, Ph.D., is professor in Work and Organizational Psychology, Stockholm University. He is currently participating
    in research on mobility in work life, illegitimate tasks as stressors, sickness absence, sickness presenteeism and individual
    strategies in boundary-less work. Wanja Astvik, Ph.D., is a researcher at the Department of Psychology, Stockholm University
    and Mälardalen University in Sweden. Her research interests concern work conditions, coping strategies, employee health and
    service quality in human service organisations. Klas Gustafsson, Ph.D., is researcher at the Department of Clinical Neuroscience,
    Division of Insurance Medicine, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm Sweden. His research interests include occupational health,
    sickness absence, disability pension and sickness presenteeism.
  1. *Correspondence to Gunnar Aronsson, Department of Psychology, Stockholm University, S-10691, Sweden. E-mail: Gunnar.Aronsson{at}psychology.su.se
  • Accepted December 2012.

Abstract

The study investigated the working conditions associated with the accumulation of stress and lack of recovery and how recovery
is related to health. The study group was employed in pre-school, home care and social work (n = 193). Recovery was assumed to be an explanatory variable for the relations between work and health. The response rate on
a survey was 79 per cent. Cluster analysis identified three groups: the ‘Recovered’ (36 per cent of the total group) and ‘Not
Recovered’ (25 per cent) and the ‘In-between’ (39 per cent). The Not Recovered displayed the whole chain of risk factors,
involving difficult working conditions to which they responded with increased compensatory strategies. Despite this group
having significantly greater reports of ill health, work absenteeism was not greater, which is likely related to their substituting
sickness absence with sickness presence. As many as 43 per cent of the social workers were found to belong to the Not Recovered
group. Multiple regression analyses controlling for background variables revealed that the Not Recovered group had a significantly
higher relative risk for poor self-rated health than those in the Recovered group. Even sharper increases in relative risk
existed for the other five symptoms that were analysed. Practical implications and new research questions are discussed.

Key words

  • Health
  • human service work
  • sickness presenteeism
  • recovery
  • stress
  • work organisation

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