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29.10.2015 | Original Article | Ausgabe 4/2016 Open Access

International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health 4/2016

Experiences of work ability in young workers: an exploratory interview study

International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health > Ausgabe 4/2016
Maria Boström, Kristina Holmgren, Judith K. Sluiter, Mats Hagberg, Anna Grimby-Ekman



The aim of this study was to explore the experiences of and influences on work ability in young workers related to their work and life situation.


In a qualitative study of a strategic sample of 12 young female and 12 young male workers, aged 25–30 years, in work or recently left work, recruited from the 5-year follow-up of a Swedish cohort, semi-structured interviews were performed to explore the experiences of work ability in these young workers. Systematic text condensation inspired by phenomenology was used in the analysis.


Work ability was experienced as complex, consisting of four themes, each with three subthemes. To be alert and have energy, to possess sufficient education, skills and working life experience and experience meaningfulness and engagement in work, were perceived to be fundamental for work ability and were seen as the worker’s own responsibility. Moreover, work ability can be improved or reduced by the psychosocial work climate, the work organization and the private life. Optimal work ability was experienced when all themes integrated in a positive way.


Work ability was experienced as the worker’s own responsibility that could be influenced by work circumstances and private life. To promote good work ability among young workers, work ability has to be understood in its specific context. Whether the understanding of work ability found in this study is explicit for the group of young adults needs to be explored in a more general population in further research.

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