Work stress and work ability: Cross-sectional findings from the German sociomedical panel of employees

Matthias Bethge*, Friedrich Michael Radoschewski, Werner Müller-Fahrnow

*Corresponding author for this work
30 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose. Maintenance of work ability and restoration of reduced work ability by prevention and rehabilitation are major aims of disability management. To achieve these aims, decision-makers and health care providers need evidence of the determinants of restricted work ability. The aim of this article was to analyse the cross-sectional association between work stress and work ability in a population drawn from a random sample of employees. Methods. A total of 1463 working men and women aged 30-59 years from the baseline survey of the German SPE were included in the analyses. Work stress was defined in terms of the demand-control model and the effort-reward (ER) imbalance model. Work ability was assessed by the Work Ability Index (WAI). We used multiple imputations to account for missing data and calculated logistic regression models to estimate associations between the two work stress models and restrictions of work ability. Results. Approximately one third (32.0%) of the respondents reported restrictions of work ability (WAI <37) indicating a need of interventions to improve and to restore work ability. High job strain was experienced by about one third (34.2%) of the participants and 12.7% of the respondents reported an ER ratio > 1 indicating an ER imbalance. Restrictions of work ability were explained independently by high job strain due to high demand and low control (OR = 4.66; 95% CI = [2.93, 7.42]) and by effort-reward imbalance (OR = 2.88; 95% CI = [1.95, 4.25]). Conclusion. Work stress is associated with restrictions of work ability, but longitudinal analyses are required to confirm a causal relation.

Original languageEnglish
JournalDisability and Rehabilitation
Issue number20
Pages (from-to)1692-1699
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 2009


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