Scand J Work Environ Health 2018;44(2):134-146    pdf full text | Published online: 03 Nov 2017, Issue date: 01 Mar 2018

Workplace interventions to improve work ability: A systematic review and meta-analysis of their effectiveness

by Oakman J, Neupane S, Proper KI, Kinsman N, Nygård C-H

Objective Extended working lives due to an ageing population will necessitate the maintenance of work ability across the life course. This systematic review aimed to analyze whether workplace interventions positively impact work ability.

Methods We searched Medline, PsycINFO, CINAHL and Embase databases using relevant terms. Work-based interventions were those focused on individuals, the workplace, or multilevel (combination). Work ability – measured using the work ability index (WAI) or the single-item work ability score (WAS) – was the outcome measure. Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development & Evaluation (GRADE) criteria was used to assess evidence quality, and impact statements were developed to synthesize the results. Meta-analysis was undertaken where appropriate.

Results We reviewed 17 randomized control trials (comprising 22 articles). Multilevel interventions (N=5) included changes to work arrangements and liaisons with supervisors, whilst individual-focused interventions (N=12) involved behavior change or exercise programs. We identified only evidence of a moderate quality for either individual or multilevel interventions aiming to improve work ability. The meta-analysis of 13 studies found a small positive significant effect for interventions on work ability [overall pooled mean 0.12, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.03–0.21] with no heterogeneity for the effect size (Chi2=11.28, P=0.51; I2=0%).

Conclusions The meta-analysis showed a small positive effect, suggesting that workplace interventions might improve work ability. However, the quality of the evidence base was only moderate, precluding any firm conclusion. Further high quality studies are require to establish the role of interventions on work ability.

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