Study: Patients Blame Work for the Majority of Their Ills

When doctors ask patients about their health problems, the reply is often that their work environment either is directly or indirectly to blame for their problems.

'When doctors ask patients about their health problems, the the reply is often that their work environment is either directly or indirectly to blame for their problems, according to a new study from a group of researchers in California.

A team of researchers lead by Dr. Phillip Harber of the University of California, Los Angeles, interviewed 100 patients seeking care at medical facilities in the Los Angeles area. They found that some 40 percent of the patients claimed that their medical conditions were job-related and that nearly 70 percent said their problems were made worse by their work environment.

"Occupational health concerns are extremely common," said lead author Dr. Phillip Harber of the University of California, Los Angeles. "And while, traditionally, people have thought about coal mines and asbestos production, in reality, occupational hazards are relevant to office workers, teachers and professional performers. So we need to broaden our focus and consider all the possibilities."

Other findings of the study, which was published in the November issue of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine include:

  • Thirteen percent of those interviewed said they changed jobs because of health concerns;
  • Twenty percent said they changed the way they performed their jobs due to health concerns;
  • Sixty percent said that changes in their work environment would help their health problems and improve their productivity.
  • Men were more likely than women to claim their jobs caused their health problems.

Harber said that healthcare providers should ask patients about their occupational health concerns "because patients won''t bring it up by themselves."

He also said that physicians need better training to recognize the relationship between health conditions and work environments.

Counseling an employee complaining of back pain to adjust a chair or work table can have more of an impact than a discussion about selecting medication, "yet physicians hardly ever address these issues,''" said Harber.

by Sandy Smith ([email protected])

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