Occupational healthcare may reduce permanent work disability retirements with the help of collaboration and quality operations

Reducing the number of work disability retirements would help societies with their labour shortage issues. How can occupational healthcare make an impact on this? Read more about Pihlajalinna’s occupational health and general practice specialist Jarmo Kuronen’s dissertation and its results.


The labour shortage and aging working population are challenges that concern the entire Europe. Because of the population structure, more employees are leaving the working life than entering it. In addition to employment pension, reasons for leaving the working life also include unemployment and work disability retirements. Disability is often caused by musculoskeletal diseases or mental disorders, such as depression and substance abuse. Society is actively looking for ways to lengthen careers.


In his PhD dissertation, Jarmo Kuronen discusses how occupational healthcare can reduce permanent work disability retirements. The dissertation study was made in collaboration with companies and employees. The research material consisted of quality measurements that covered supporting employees’ work ability, health check-ups of the partially disabled, depression treatment, monitoring the use of alcohol as well as the incidence of musculoskeletal diseases and mental disorders.


The study examined the following questions:


  1. Can quality networking in occupational healthcare reduce disability retirement?
  2. Can support measures aimed at recovering the ability to work reduce the need for disability retirement?
  3. Which factors affect occupational physicians’ and occupational nurses’ activity to tackle the overuse of alcohol among employees?
  4. Do the initiation, process and outcome of support forms of the ability to work follow national laws, guidelines and recommendations?


Collaboration matters


The study shows that a systematic improvement of quality can reduce permanent work disability retirements and promote the use of partial disability pensions. Just joining an occupational healthcare quality network produced positive results. Actively intervening in the excessive use of alcohol, monitoring the statistic indicators of work ability risks and the related tackling of work ability problems as well as training people in charge of quality in occupational healthcare had a bigger impact on the results than, for example, offering more efficient care for a singular disease. The study also highlighted the employees’ initiative and the importance of supervisors in initiating measures supporting the ability to work.


The study produced new information on the impact of quality networking in occupational healthcare in preventing work disability retirements, identifying alcohol problems and supporting employees with partial work ability. The study shows that occupational healthcare plays a role in decision-making even though workplaces have the main responsibility in supporting the ability to work. The results emphasise the significance of collaboration and encourage occupational healthcare to improve quality. The main message is that systematic, collaboration-minded occupational healthcare can also be effective.


Jarmo Kuronen

Occupational health and general practice specialist


The dissertation was reviewed and approved by the Faculty of Health Sciences of the University of Eastern Finland on 29 August 2023. Read the entire dissertation here.




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