Doctoral dissertation

Dissertation: Early support significantly improves work ability

The retirement age is rising whilst the population is aging. In 2011, more than half of Finns in working age had a chronic illness or disability. The aim of this research intervention undertaken at Tampere University was to improve the participants’ work ability and assess it with established indicators. The results show that work ability may be improved by an intervention that supports the early stages of issues affecting work ability.

The study focused on a new type of early rehabilitation intervention that was tailored for employees of the City of Tampere. The data was collected between 2011 and 2014. The intervention was carried out close to the employees’ homes and places of work, which supported the continuity of the lifestyle changes and learning in daily life. The employer enabled the rehabilitation by paying for the implementation costs of the rehabilitation days and the social insurance institution KELA supported participation by paying the employees a rehabilitation allowance, which compensated for part of their lost income during the rehabilitation days.

The rehabilitation programme included eight one-day sessions. The purpose was to maintain and enhance the participants’ work ability and their chances of remaining active employees. The sessions were organised every two weeks and a follow-up was conducted nine months after the start of the programme.

The participants were 12-64-year-olds and represented different occupations and sectors. The largest group (37.3%) of female participants came from the health care sector whereas the largest group of men (70.4%) came from construction and transport. The participants were chosen on the basis of their willingness to participate and commitment to the process as well as their supervisors’ and the occupational health clinic’s recommendations.

The results of the rehabilitation group improved in all areas unlike those of the control group. The established measures to gauge the participant’s work ability included physical fitness, oxygen uptake and muscular capacity tests, a work ability index, a health-related quality of life scale, a burnout scale, a work engagement scale as well as questions on depression and stress.

The difference between the groups was statistically significant in the total points received in the work ability index. For example, the oxygen uptake improved in all age groups by at least 67%.

Birgitta Ojala works at the Pirte Occupational Health and Medical Center Oy in Tampere, Finland.

Master of Health Sciences (MSc) Birgitta Ojala’s doctoral dissertation in the field of rehabilitation and occupational health called A Cognitive-Behavioral Work-Related Program for Early Rehabilitation: A controlled study among municipal employees in Finland will be publicly examined at the Faculty of Social Sciences of Tampere University on Friday, 22 February 2019 at 12:00. Venue: Arvo building, lecture hall A210-211. The opponent is Professor Sarianna Sipilä from the University of Jyväskylä, Finland. The event is supervised by Professor Clas-Håkan Nygård from the Faculty of Social Sciences, Tampere University.

The doctoral thesis is available at http://urn.fi/URN:ISBN:978-952-03-0947-3