Original article

Scand J Work Environ Health Online-first -article    pdf

doi:10.5271/sjweh.3887

The mediating effect of work-life interference on the relationship between work-time control and depressive and musculoskeletal symptoms

by Albrecht SC, Kecklund G, Leineweber C

Objectives Evidence shows that work-time control (WTC) affects health but underlying mechanisms are still unclear. Work-life interference (WLI) might be a step on the causal pathway. The present study examined whether WLI mediates effects on mental and physical health and contrasted these to other causal pathways.

Methods Four biennial waves from the Swedish Longitudinal Occupational Survey of Health (SLOSH, N=26 804) were used. Cross-lagged analyses were conducted to estimate if WLI mediated effects from WTC (differentiating between control over daily hours and time off) to subsequent depressive and musculoskeletal symptoms. Other causal directions (reversed mediation, direct and reversed direct effects) and robustness of mediation (by including covariates) were examined.

Results WLI partially mediated the relationship of WTC (control over daily hours/time off) with both health outcomes. Indirect effect estimates were small for depressive symptoms (-0.053 for control over time off and -0.018 for control over daily hours) and very small for musculoskeletal symptoms (-0.007 and -0.003, respectively). While other causal directions were generally weaker than causal mediational pathways, they played a larger role for musculoskeletal compared to depressive symptoms. Estimates relating to control over time off were in general larger than for control over daily hours.

Conclusions Our results suggest that WLI mediates part of the effect from WTC to mental/musculoskeletal symptoms, but small estimates suggest that (i) WTC plays a small but consistent role in effects on health and (ii) particularly regarding musculoskeletal disorders, other causal directions and mediators need to be further examined.

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