Is it a case of “work-anxiety” when patients report bad workplace characteristics and low work ability?

Aims: Work-anxiety may come along with a negative view of the workplace and is therefore an important factor of influence in work ability assessment. Work ability assessment requires to distinguish between descriptive workplace characteristics, work ability, and work-anxiety. This study explores the empirical relationships between patient-reported workplace characteristics, work-anxiety, and subjective and objective work ability measures. Methods: 125 patients in medical rehabilitation before vocational reintegration were interviewed concerning their vocational situation, and filled in a questionnaire on work-anxiety (WPS), subjective mental work ability (WAI) and perceived workplace characteristics (KFZA, JATS). Treating physicians gave independent socio-medical judgments concerning the patients´ work ability and impairment, and need for supportive means for vocational reintegration. Results: Patients with high work-anxiety reported workplace characteristics systematically more negative. Also low subjective work ability went along with reports of problematic workplace characteristics. When controlled for work-anxiety, subjective work ability remained related only with social workplace characteristics and with work achievement demands, but independent from situational or task characteristics. Sick leave duration and physicians´ judgment of work ability are not systematically related with patient-reported workplace characteristics. Conclusions: In socio-medical work ability assessment, patients with high work-anxiety must be expected to report more problematic workplace characteristics and lower work ability. For detecting potentially biased patient´s view on work characteristics and work ability, the patient must be explored concerning work-anxiety. Detecting work-anxiety is important in order to initiate early work-directed treatment, and avoid long-term sick leaves.


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