Health-Related Quality of Life Varies Among US Workers Interview with:
Taylor M. Shockey MPH

CDC/National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
CDC What is the background for this study?

Response: Our study examined health-related quality of life (HRQOL) among 22 major occupation groups using the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) data. The BRFSS is an annual telephone survey that collects data from U.S. residents on their health-related risk behaviors, chronic health conditions, and use of preventive services.

HRQOL is an individual’s self-perception of their physical and mental health over time and it provides a valuable measure of well-being. HRQOL is used by a variety of different fields, outside of public health, including psychology, social work, economics, and urban planning. HRQOL is a measure capable of linking these different fields and is used to determine disease burden, to monitor progress in achieving the Healthy People goals, to guide policy and legislation, to develop interventions, and to allocate resources where they are most needed. The Healthy People goals are 10-year targets for improving the health of Americans through health promotion activities and disease prevention efforts.

In relation to occupation, prior research that has evaluated HRQOL has typically focused on employment status, but not on specific job type. It’s been established, however, that job characteristics such as high demand, low control, role stress, bullying, work hours, etc., are associated with greater risk for common mental health problems as well as physical outcomes like headaches, fatigue, and gastrointestinal problems.

Our study wanted to determine if differences in HRQOL would exist among occupation groups. What are the main findings?

Response: Among 22 major occupation groups, the arts, design, entertainment, sports, and media occupation group (e.g., actors, athletes, journalists) had the highest adjusted prevalence for 4 of the 5 HRQOL measures: frequent physical distress, frequent mental distress, frequent activity limitation, and frequent overall unhealthy days. Both the personal care and service occupation group (e.g., hairdressers, childcare workers) and the community and social services occupation group (e.g., social workers) had among the top 3 highest adjusted prevalence for 3 of the 5 HRQOL measures. Farming, fishing, and forestry had the lowest adjusted prevalence for all 5 HRQOL measures. What should readers take away from your report?

Response: While relationship between work and health is complex and multifactorial, our study did find variability in HRQOL across the different occupation groups. It’s likely that workers’ jobs affect their HRQOL. What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Response: This study does highlight that in addition to general employment status, occupation is an important factor to consider in HRQOL research. The study also shows the value in collecting information on occupation and industry in large-scale health surveys such as BRFSS. To our knowledge, this is the first study to examine the BRFSS HRQOL variables by occupation group at a multistate level, more research is needed to understand these results and for the development of occupationally tailored interventions to improve HRQOL among US workers. Thank you for your contribution to the community.


Am J Public Health. 2017 Jun 22:e1-e8. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2017.303840. [Epub ahead of print]

Health-Related Quality of Life Among US Workers: Variability Across Occupation Groups.

Shockey TM1, Zack M1, Sussell A1.

Note: Content is Not intended as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider regarding your specific medical condition and questions.

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