Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation

, Volume 20, Issue 2, pp 235–246 | Cite as

Common Health Problems, Yellow Flags and Functioning in a Community Setting

  • Rhiannon BuckEmail author
  • Maria C. Barnes
  • Debbie Cohen
  • Mansel Aylward


Introduction Common health problems such as pain, depression and fatigue have a high impact on daily life, work and healthcare utilization. This study aimed to investigate the prevalence of these complaints in a UK community setting and to establish whether psychosocial risk factors, or ‘yellow flags’, moderate their impact on daily life and work. Methods 580 women and 420 men participated in a cross-sectional survey in the UK in 2007. 467 (57.2%) of the 816 working age adults in this sample reported complaints over the last month and were included in the moderator multivariate analysis. Results Women and the not employed group reported a higher number and greater extent (frequency × severity) of complaints. Statistically significant models emerged for interference with daily life (F9,457 = 36.54, P < 0.001, adjusted R2 = 0.407) and time off work (F4,462 = 31.22, P < 0.001, adjusted R2 = 0.213). Age (β = .238) and socio-economic status (β = −.216) were associated with time off work. Extent of complaints and number of yellow flags were independently associated with interference with daily life (extent β = .25, yellow flags β = .15) and time off work (extent β = .154, yellow flags β = .201). No moderating effect of yellow flags was found. Conclusions Common health problems and yellow flags can be briefly and simply assessed. A broader approach is needed in managing these complaints in community and work contexts, moving beyond reducing complaint severity. Interventions need to acknowledge and address people’s beliefs and affective responses to complaints, as well as wider socio-economic issues.


Functioning Work Psychosocial factors Catastrophizing Causal attributions 



The research centre where this work was carried out is sponsored in part by a grant from Unum Ltd. The authors wish to express their thanks to Alice Varnava and Katie Webb for their assistance with the piloting the survey and coding the qualitative data, and to Mike Robling and Kerry Hood for their comments during the development of the survey.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rhiannon Buck
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Maria C. Barnes
    • 1
  • Debbie Cohen
    • 1
  • Mansel Aylward
    • 1
  1. 1.Centre for Psychosocial and Disability Research, School of PsychologyCardiff UniversityCardiffUK
  2. 2.Mental Health Research and Development Unit, School for HealthUniversity of BathBathUK

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