Mental problems biggest hindrance to work

Backache and pain in the joints are the most common medical complaints of people who aree incapacitated. However, mental problems are most likely be an obstacle for people to work or to find a job. Most adjustments to the workplace are made for people incapacitated by back and joint pain. These adjustments consist mostly of aids or specially adapted furniture.

Many people suffer from back and joint pain

More than 1.5 million people aged 15-64 years in the Netherlands were incapacitated in 2001. Just over six out of ten of these suffered from back pain or pains in their joints. Mental problems came second; nearly one quarter of incapacitated people had a mental complaint. It should be kept in mind that people may suffer from more than one symptom.

Incapacitated people by type of complaint, 2001

Mental problems biggest obstacle

Chronic illness does not necessarily constitute a hindrance for someone to work or find a job. In 2001 six out of ten people suffering from a long-term complaint or illness experienced this as an obstacle to working or finding a job. These are the incapacitated. Mental problems in particular are a hindrance: eight out of ten people, with mental problems are incapacitated. Illnesses which have little effect on people’s ability to carry out their work are bronchitis, asthma, other chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes. About half of people with one of these illnesses are incapacitated.

Proportion of incapacitated per illness, 2001

Most adjustments for back and joint problems

To keep incapacitated people in the labour process as long as possible various adjustments can be made: for example, specially adapted furniture and aids or another position with different responsibilities or tasks. Incapacitated people with mental problems are most likely to indicate that they need these adjustments. Such adjustments are most often made for people with back and joint complaints and people with mental problems. Adjustments were made for one third of people in both groups last year.

Special furniture for back and joint problems

Employers mainly buy special office furniture or aids for people suffering from pain in their backs or in their joints. Half of such workers were given special furniture or an aid in the last year. People with heart and vascular disease or mental problems were allocated other responsibilities or tasks.

Adjustments for some complaints, 2001

Probably because it is relatively easy to purchase aids or specially adapted furniture, people with backache and pain in their joints more often receive adjustments than people with other complaints.

Astrid Smits