, 7:5,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 11 Apr 2012

The course of physical functional limitations and occupational conditions in a middle-aged working population in France



Physical functional limitations (PFL) have mainly been studied in older populations. The aim of this study was to better understand the course of PFL and associations with occupational factors by gender in a middle-aged working population.


The data came from 16,950 workers in the ESTEV (Enquête Santé Travail et Vieillissement) cohort in France. PFL were assessed using the physical abilities section of the Nottingham Health Profile. Occupational conditions were measured with a self-administered questionnaire covering physical and psychosocial factors in 1990 and 1995. Multivariate analyses were used to assess the associations.


The PFL appearance rate in 1995 was the same by gender (6.3%); the rate of PFL recovery was higher in men (23.9% versus 20.9%). Age was an independent factor of PFL at age 47 years or older in both genders after adjusting for confounding factors. The PFL appearance rate in 1995 was higher with physical occupational exposure in 1990, such as awkward work with a dose relation in both genders, while the PFL recovery rate decreased significantly only for men. Exposure to psychosocial occupational conditions, such as having the means to produce quality work in 1990, was significantly associated with a decreased PFL appearance rate in 1995 in both genders, and having high decision latitude in 1990 was associated with a decreased PFL appearance rate in 1995 only in men. Changes in exposure to occupational factors between 1990 and 1995 were associated with the PFL appearance and recovery rates in 1995 in both genders.


After five years, the course of PFL in this working population changed and was associated with physical and psychosocial occupational factors. Relationships were stronger for the PFL appearance rate in both genders and were weaker for recovery from PFL, mainly among women.