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Original research
Influence of lifestyle risk factors on work ability and sick leave in a general working population in Norway: a 5-year longitudinal study
  1. Marit Müller De Bortoli1,2,
  2. Inger M. Oellingrath1,
  3. Anne Kristin Moeller Fell2,
  4. Alex Burdorf3,
  5. Suzan J. W. Robroek3
  1. 1Department of Nursing and Health Sciences, University of South-Eastern Norway - Campus Porsgrunn, Porsgrunn, Norway
  2. 2Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Sykehuset Telemark HF, Skien, Norway
  3. 3Department of Public Health, Erasmus MC, Rotterdam, Zuid-Holland, The Netherlands
  1. Correspondence to Marit Müller De Bortoli; marit.muller{at}


Objectives The aim of this study is to assess (1) whether lifestyle risk factors are related to work ability and sick leave in a general working population over time, and (2) these associations within specific disease groups (ie, respiratory diseases, cardiovascular disease and diabetes, and mental illness).

Setting Telemark county, in the south-eastern part of Norway.

Design Longitudinal study with 5 years follow-up.

Participants The Telemark study is a longitudinal study of the general working population in Telemark county, Norway, aged 16 to 50 years at baseline in 2013 (n=7952) and after 5-year follow-up.

Outcome measure Self-reported information on work ability (moderate and poor) and sick leave (short-term and long-term) was assessed at baseline, and during a 5-year follow-up.

Results Obesity (OR=1.64, 95% CI: 1.32 to 2.05) and smoking (OR=1.62, 95% CI: 1.35 to 1.96) were associated with long-term sick leave and, less strongly, with short-term sick leave. An unhealthy diet (OR=1.57, 95% CI: 1.01 to 2.43), and smoking (OR=1.67, 95% CI: 1.24 to 2.25) were associated with poor work ability and, to a smaller extent, with moderate work ability. A higher lifestyle risk score was associated with both sick leave and reduced work ability. Only few associations were found between unhealthy lifestyle factors and sick leave or reduced work ability within disease groups.

Conclusion Lifestyle risk factors were associated with sick leave and reduced work ability. To evaluate these associations further, studies assessing the effect of lifestyle interventions on sick leave and work ability are needed.

  • occupational & industrial medicine
  • preventive medicine
  • public health

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  • Contributors AKMF was involved in conception, design and data collection. MMDB, IMO, AKMF, SJWR and AB were involved in the selection of research questions. MMDB was responsible for the statistical analyses. MMDB, IMO, AKMF, SJWR and AB were involved in the interpretation of the results. MMDB drafted the manuscript with the assistance of SJWR. MMDB, IMO, AKMF, SJWR and AB revised the manuscript critically and approved the final manuscript.

  • Funding The work was supported by the University of South-Eastern Norway and Telemark Hospital.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Ethics approval The study was conducted in accordance with the guidelines laid down in the Declaration of Helsinki, and were approved by the Regional Committee for Ethics in Medical Research and the Norwegian Data Protection Authority (REC 2012/1665).

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data availability statement Data are available upon reasonable request. The data sets generated and/or analysed during the current study are not publicly available due to individual privacy regulations. However, data may be shared with researchers who meet the criteria for access to confidential data upon request to the head of the Telemark study steering committee.

  • Supplemental material This content has been supplied by the author(s). It has not been vetted by BMJ Publishing Group Limited (BMJ) and may not have been peer-reviewed. Any opinions or recommendations discussed are solely those of the author(s) and are not endorsed by BMJ. BMJ disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on the content. Where the content includes any translated material, BMJ does not warrant the accuracy and reliability of the translations (including but not limited to local regulations, clinical guidelines, terminology, drug names and drug dosages), and is not responsible for any error and/or omissions arising from translation and adaptation or otherwise.