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Experiences of work ability in young workers: an exploratory interview study

Journal article
Authors Maria Boström
Kristina Holmgren
Judith K Sluiter
Mats Hagberg
Anna Grimby-Ekman
Published in International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health
Volume 89
Issue 4
Pages 629-640
ISSN 0340-0131
Publication year 2016
Published at Institute of Medicine, School of Public Health and Community Medicine
Pages 629-640
Language en
Keywords Work ability, Qualitative interviews, Young workers, Alertness, Meaningfulness, Work climate, Work organization, Private life
Subject categories Basic Medicine


Abstract Purpose The aim of this study was to explore the experiences of and influences on work ability in young workers related to their work and life situation. Methods In a qualitative study of a strategic sample of 12 young female and 12 young male workers, aged 25-30 years, in work or recently left work, recruited from the 5-year follow-up of a Swedish cohort, semi-structured interviews were performed to explore the experiences of work ability in these young workers. Systematic text condensation inspired by phenomenology was used in the analysis. Results Work ability was experienced as complex, consisting of four themes, each with three subthemes. To be alert and have energy, to possess sufficient education, skills and working life experience and experience meaningfulness and engagement in work, were perceived to be fundamental for work ability and were seen as the worker’s own responsibility. Moreover, work ability can be improved or reduced by the psychosocial work climate, the work organization and the private life. Optimal work ability was experienced when all themes integrated in a positive way. Conclusions Work ability was experienced as the worker’s own responsibility that could be influenced by work circumstances and private life. To promote good work ability among young workers, work ability has to be understood in its specific context. Whether the understanding of work ability found in this study is explicit for the group of young adults, needs to be explored in a more general population in further research.

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