Work is a major part of people’s lives, and can impact importantly on their health, either beneficially or adversely. At the same time, illness may impair capacity to work, with costs for workers, their families, employers and society at large. With 131 million working days lost to sickness absence in the UK in 2013, and growing evidence of harmful health effects of job loss and unemployment, it is important to find ways of reducing disability for work because of illness and injury, and maximising the benefits of healthy employment.

Over the past 35 years, our team has been a leading focus in the UK for epidemiological research on the relation of work to many different aspects of health, including cancers, respiratory disease, musculoskeletal disorders, skin problems, occupational injuries and outcomes of pregnancy. More recently, we have extended our research to the impacts of health on capacity to work, including “presenteeism” (impaired performance while at work), sickness absence and job loss. Our programme has helped to inform national policies on health, work and well-being, led to improvements in safety at work and clinical practice, and importantly influenced compensation for occupational diseases.

The objective of this programme is to improve the control of hazards to health in the workplace, and to find cost-effective ways of minimising the substantial adverse impacts of illness and injury on capacity to work, enhancing people’s opportunities for healthy and productive employment. Our main areas of research currently are the occupational causes and effects of musculoskeletal illness, and the inter-relationship of health at work at older ages.

Programme Leaders:

  • Dr Karen Walker-Bone
  • Professor Keith Palmer
  • Professor David Coggon