The Health Assets Project – factors that promote health

Photo: Torbjörn Berglund

(Published 2012-03-29)
What resources, of the individual, at work and in society, are contributing to health? This is the main focus of the Health Assets Project, one of the studies in medicine that are available to researchers and students via SND.

The data and issues of the Health Assets Project are right on time. The work environment authority's knowledge review "The good work environment and its indicators", emphasizes how important it is that research not only focuses on the risks that can lead to injuries and illness. It is also crucial to identify factors that promote job satisfaction and health. In the Health Assets Project at the unit of social medicine, the Sahlgrenska Academy, the focus is on the latter. In the project, the researchers collected data about the individual, organizational and societal factors affecting the return to work of people on sick leave, and what factors contribute to people not becoming sick-listed at all.

– In the articles we have published so far, much of the focus is on identifying risk factors related to ill-health, stress, alcohol and social class. What we have begun to do now is to analyze data to investigate factors that promote possibilities to be long term healthy, says Kristina Holmgren, project manager.

The Health Assets Project was initiated to produce new knowledge about the resources that support people's ability to stay at work. The study's variables involves a number of different areas and stages of life including issues of health, sickness absence, employment, work ability, work organization, social support at work, family relations, home and housework, lifestyle, culture and leisure.

– A subject that has been discussed in public debate is the older workforce and how people can maintain the strength to stay at work longer. Here we also have opportunities to use the data material for analysis, says Kristina Holmgren.

The researchers in the project appreciate that their data are used in a broader research context. The study is available at SND, but before the material is distributed, SND always contacts the primary researchers at the Sahlgrenska Academy.

– It is very gratifying that our data are spread nationally and internationally. The material covers so many areas that there is always a new angle to explore, says Kristina Holmgren.

A longitudinal study with two data collection periods

The Health Assets Project is a longitudinal cohort study with two data collection periods. The first was conducted in spring 2008, and the second was due in autumn 2009. The target group was all individuals aged 19-64 years who were registered as residents in Västra Götaland.

The study population consisted of three samples. A random population sample, a sample of all employees who became sick-listed during the period 18 February to 15 April 2008, and a sample of self-employed, unemployed and students who became sick-listed during the same period.

The data were collected through mailed questionnaires. These questionnaires consisted of items validated in previous similar studies and newly constructed questions based on research developed within the project team. A particular focus was mental health and questions capturing a gender perspective. The second survey also included questions concerning the sick leave process, including care and treatment, rehabilitation and response.

Data from the 2008 collection are currently available at SND. Eventually the data from 2009 will also be deposited here.