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15.09.2020 | Original Article | Ausgabe 1/2021 Open Access

International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health 1/2021

Working conditions as risk factors for early exit from work—in a cohort of 2351 employees in Germany

International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health > Ausgabe 1/2021
Angelo d’Errico, Hermann Burr, Dagmar Pattloch, Norbert Kersten, Uwe Rose
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We would assess the possible impact of a range of physical and psychosocial working conditions on early exit from paid employment (i.e., before retirement age) in a representative employee population in Germany.


We analysed a cohort from the German Study on Mental Health at Work (S-MGA) with a baseline of 2351 employees in 2011/12, sampled randomly from the register of integrated employment biographies (IEB) at the Institute for Employment Research (IAB). Follow-up ended mid-2015. Early Exit comprised episodes of either pensioning, long-term sickness absence or unemployment ≥ 18 months. Total follow-up years were 8.422. Working conditions were partly assessed by the Copenhagen Psychosocial Questionnaire (COPSOQ). Through Cox regressions, associations of baseline working conditions with time to event of exit were estimated—adjusting for baseline age, gender, poverty, fixed-term contract and socioeconomic position.


In multiple regressions, awkward body postures (HR = 1.24; 95% CI = 1.07–1.44), heavy lifting (1.17; 1.00–1.37) and high work pace (1.41; 1.16–1.72) were associated with exit. The estimated attributable fraction of exit for being exposed to less than optimal work environment was 25%. Regarding specific exit routes, repetitive movements (1.25; 1.03–1.53) increased the risk for the long-term sickness absence; work pace (1.86; 1.22–2.86) and role clarity (0.55; 0.31–1.00) were associated to unemployment; and control over working time (0.72; 0.56–0.95) decreased the risk of the early retirement.


Work environment seems to be important for subsequent early exit from work. Physical and psychosocial demands seem to be associated to exit to a stronger extent than resources at work.

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