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Occup Environ Med. 2003 Jun;60 Suppl 1:i62-70.

Need for recovery from work related fatigue and its role in the development and prediction of subjective health complaints.

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Coronel Institute for Occupational and Environmental Health, Academic Medical Center, AmCOGG: Research Institute Amsterdam Center for Health and Health Care Research, Amsterdam, Netherlands.



To present the available empirical evidence for the assumed position of the concept of work related fatigue as: (1) short term effect of the working day; and (2) an intermediate variable between work demands and the development of subjective health complaints and sickness absence.


Results from six single occupation studies, conducted between 1996 and 2002, are presented. Work demands (working hours, decision latitude, break control/autonomy, and mental, emotional, and physical demands) were assessed through validated scales. Work related fatigue was represented and assessed by means of the need for recovery after working time scale in all studies. Subjective health complaints and duration of sickness absence were quantified with the same instruments in most studies as well. Both cross sectional studies (four) as well as prospective studies (two; up to two years follow up) were performed. Cross sectional data of 3820 workers, in total, were available. Prospective data were accessible for 1200 workers in industry and health care. Models were tested with stepwise multiple regression analyses.


Strong associations between work demands and need for recovery were found in different occupations. The variance explained in need for recovery by work demands, age, and (baseline) need for recovery ranged between 14% and 48% in both types of studies. The amount of explained variance by work demands, age, and (baseline) need for recovery in subjective health complaints ranged between 24% and 58% in the different occupations. The prospective data showed the prognostic value of need for recovery in relation to subjective health complaints (in terms of psychosomatic complaints, emotional exhaustion, or sleep problems) and duration of future sickness absence.


The hypothesised role for work related fatigue as a link in the causal string of events, that is assumed to exist between repeated adverse work demands and the development of work related stress reactions, (psychological) overload and, eventually, health problems, was confirmed.

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