Common health problems (CHPs) such as pain, depressed mood and fatigue are often cited as causes of disability and incapacity for work. The aim of this qualitative study was to investigate beliefs about CHPs in relation to work. Focus groups (n = 16) were undertaken with 79 people aged 17–83 in South Wales, UK, where there is a high prevalence of limiting long-term illnesses in a number of areas. The findings indicated that depression and stress were consistently reported to have a high impact on life and work relative to other CHPs, with work being perceived as a primary cause of these complaints. The social, moral and economic pressures involved in work and sickness absence emerged as a major theme. Differences were identified in beliefs about CHPs and work according to gender, age and socio-economic status. Beliefs were relatively consistent across geographical locations, although changes in forms of work and social structure of communities were more salient issues within the ex-coalfield areas. Care needs to be taken that initiatives aimed at reducing incapacity for work due to CHPs do not simply add to the pressure to ‘be well’.
- Common health problems