Background and aim
SLOSH – Swedish Longitudinal Occupational Survey of Health – is a new nationally representative longitudinal cohort survey focusing on the relationships between work organization, work environment and health. In 2006, IPM/Stress Research Institute commissioned a first follow-up of the Swedish Work Environment Survey (SWES) of 2003, which was carried out by Statistics Sweden (SCB) during March-May 2006. A second follow-up is planned for Mars 2008. In this report, the responses to the questions in the first follow-up are referred to as SLOSH 2006.
SLOSH is financed by the Swedish Council for Working Life and Social Research (FAS) and was approved by the Regional Research Ethics Board in Stockholm. The main aim of SLOSH is to investigate the relationships, over time, between work environment factors and health.
October 1st 2007 IPM will be transferred to the Faculty of Social Sciences at Stockholm University, and at the same time the institute will also change its name to Stress Research Institute.
Material and method
SLOSH is conducted in the form of self-completion questionnaires that are sent by mail to the participants. There are two versions of the questionnaire, one for respondents who are gainfully employed and one for those who are not gainfully employed at the time of the survey. The questionnaire for gainfully employed consists of questions about work organization, work environment, lifestyle, health and social situation outside work. The questionnaire for those who are not gainfully employed resembles the one for the gainfully employed, but instead of questions about work, it includes questions considered relevant for old-age pensioners, full-time early retirees, full-time disability pensioners, unemployed, students, long-term sick-listed, people on parental leave, homemakers and others who temporarily or permanently have left gainful employment.
The 2006 follow-up constitutes the beginning of a large longitudinal cohort study, in which a sample of about 9,000 people from the working population (in 2003) are followed over time with repeated measurements. SLOSH 2006 was answered by 5,985 people, of whom 5,141 answered the questionnaire for gainfully employed and 844 the one for those not currently in gainful employment. The next follow-up is planned for Mars 2008 and thereafter the intention is to send out new questionnaires every second year within the foreseeable future.
Compared to the SWES, SLOSH 2006 contains considerably more, and more detailed, questions about work organization, leadership, workplace conflicts and conflict solving. The questions about health were also essentially increased and comprise, among other things, self-rated health, chronic illness, psychosomatic symptoms, burnout and depressive symptoms. Moreover, there is a relative large number of questions about private life, and health related behaviours (e.g. excersise, alcohol and smoking).
The results of the survey are expected to serve as a basis for more effective work environment management and to contribute to the scientific knowledge about how working life factors, in combination with the private life factors, influence peoples’ health.
In the present report, the responses to all individual items in SLOSH 2006 are presented divided by sex as well as age groups. Some questions are presented separately for gainfully employed and not gainfully employed (old-age pensioners, unemployed etc.) people. For comparison we also report how the participants in SLOSH 2006 answered the questions in SWES 2003.
In the results part of the report only a limited number of questions are presented and discussed. These have been selected because they may be of interest. Some of these results are summarized below. However, in the tables at the end of the report, the answers to all questions are presented.
The portion of respondents who stated that they, at least once during the last two years before the questionnaire was completed, had experienced essentially increased work tasks, amounted to 47.4 % (50.2 % of the women and 44.4 % of the men). This may be both a stressful and a stimulating factor, depending on context.
About 30 % of the respondents answered that they felt stressed to a high extent or very high extent by demands to give immediate answers to e-mails and telephone calls that require a lot of work. A higher proportion of women (38.8 %) than men (27.2 %), stated that they to a high or very high extent were stressed by computers and other equipment that failed to work properly.
It was on the other hand more common among male participants (23.0 %) than among female (18.1 %), to feel stressed to a high, or very high extent by the demands to always be available on work-related issues both at work and during leisure time.
Leadership has in a number of surveys, both at IPM/Stress Research Institute and internationally, been shown to be of importance for the health of the participants. Concerning the question Does your manager listen to you and pay attention to what you say? a total of 70.4 % stated that this was true to a high or very high extent. Among the respondents, 74.8 % stated that their manager sometimes or more often acted as a team builder, whereas 23.7 % of the participants considered that their manager sometimes or more often was dictatorial.
Conflicts were rated to be relatively common at the workplaces. A somewhat larger portion of women (33.6 %) than men (30.9 %) answered that they in the last two years had been involved in any kind of conflict at work. However, there were no significant gender difference with regard to main strategies for solving differences of view at the work unit. More than 75.0 % answered that differences of view were mainly settled by discussing and negotiating. About 12.0 % reported that differences of view at their work unit were mainly settled by using status, authority or by orders. About one tenth of the respondents stated that no attempt was made to resolve them.
How people deal with conflicts and differences in opinions has also shown strong associations with health in earlier studies. In SLOSH there are thus questions about coping. This can be seen as a personality factor, but can probably also be affected by the work climate. The proportion of men who stated that they mostly or always had made clear immediately and clearly shown their feelings, when they during the last two years felt steamrollered or unfairly treated by their manager/managers totalled 66.9 %. In contrast, 64.0 % of the female participants stated the same. A larger part of the women (27.9 %) than men (18.0 %) stated that when during the last two years they had felt steamrollered or unfairly treated by their manager/managers, they mostly or always, had kept quiet and brooded over it. Women (20.6 %) also stated to a much higher extent than men (5.9 %) that in this type of situation they mostly or always took it out on their family/those closest to them.
Effort does not have to be unhealthy, if there are opportunities for recovery, biologically as well as psychologically. The percentage that stated that they, in the last 3 months had been troubled by disturbed/restless sleep at least once a week, totalled
24.4 % for women and 18.2 % for men. However long-term sick-listed people reported sleep disturbances more often, as did women on parental leave or disability pension. Sleep disturbances were least common among old-age pensioners.
With respect to the question Does your work leave time for reflection?, a total of 32.9 % responded seldom or hardly ever/never. A slight gender difference was observed, 30.6 % men and 35.5 % women replied accordingly.
So far, the data have been discussed based upon the answers from one occasion – SLOSH 2006. The main advantage of the SLOSH survey, however, is that it is longitudinal. This gives us possibilities to analyze “what comes first” and approach questions about causality. Such analyses will be published in regularily scientific papers in the future, and are not included in the present report. We refer the interested reader to coming scientific publications, which will be summarized on the survey website http://www.stressforskning.su.se
Stress Research Institute, Stockholm , 2007. , 138 p.
Work Stress, Psychosocial, Work Environment, Health, Longitudinal, Survey, Work Organiation