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Modifiable worker risk factors contributing to workplace absence: A stakeholder-centred best-evidence synthesis of systematic reviews


BACKGROUND: A challenge facing stakeholders is the identification and translation of relevant high quality research to inform policy and practice. This study engaged academic and community stakeholders in conducting a best evidence-synthesis to identify modifiable risk and protective worker factors across health conditions impacting work-related absence.

OBJECTIVES: To identify modifiable worker disability risk and protective factors across common health conditions impacting work-related absence.

METHODS: We searched Medline, Embase, CINHAL, The Cochrane Library, PsycINFO, BusinessSourceComplete, and ABI/Inform from 2000 to 2011. Quantitative, qualitative, or mixed methods systematic reviews of work-focused population were considered for inclusion. Two or more reviewers independently reviewed articles for inclusion and methodological screening.

RESULTS: The search strategy, expert input and grey literature identified 2,467 unique records. One hundred and forty-two full text articles underwent comprehensive review. Twenty-four systematic reviews met eligibility criteria. Modifiable worker factors found to have consistent evidence across two or more health conditions included emotional distress, negative enduring psychology/personality factors, negative health and disability perception, decreased physical activity, lack of family support, poor general health, increased functional disability, increased pain, increased fatigue and lack of motivation to return to work.

CONCLUSIONS: Systematic reviews are limited by availability of high quality studies, lack of consistency of methodological screening and reporting, and variability of outcome measures used.