Original article

Scand J Work Environ Health 2012;38(3):228-237    pdf


Health risk behaviors and morbidity among hospital staff − comparison across hospital ward medical specialties in a study of 21 Finnish hospitals

by Virtanen M, Vahtera J, Batty GD, Tuisku K, Oksanen T, Elovainio M, Ahola K, Pentti J, Salo P, Vartti A-M, Kivimäki M

Objective This study examined whether indicators of poor health and health risk behaviors among hospital staff differ between the ward specialties.

Methods Across 21 hospitals in Finland, 8003 employees (mean age 42 years, 87% women, 86% nurses) working in internal medicine, surgery, obstetrics and gynecology, pediatrics, intensive care, and psychiatry responded to a baseline survey on health and health risk behaviors (response rate 70%). Responses were linked to records of sickness absence and medication over the following 12 months.

Results Psychiatric staff had higher odds of smoking [odds ratio (OR) 2.58, 95% confidence interval (95% CI) 2.14–3.12], high alcohol use (OR 1.55, 95% CI 1.21–1.99), physical inactivity (OR 1.30, 95% CI 1.11–1.53), chronic physical disease (OR 1.19, 95% CI 1.04–1.36), current or past mental disorders (OR 1.81, 95% CI 1.50–2.17), and co-occurring poor health indicators (OR 2.65, 95% CI 2.08–3.37) as compared to those working in other specialties. They also had higher odds of sickness absence due to mental disorders (OR 1.40, 95% CI 1.02–1.92) and depression (OR 1.61, 95% CI 1.02–2.55) at follow-up after adjustment for baseline health and covariates. Personnel in surgery had the lowest probability of morbidity. No major differences between specialties were found in the use of psychotropic medication.

Conclusion The prevalence of hospital employees with an adverse health risk profile is higher in psychiatric wards than other specialties.