Beliefs about common health problems and work: a qualitative study

MC Barnes, Rhiannon Buck, G Williams, KL Webb, M Aylward

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Citations (SciVal)


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’.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)657-665
Number of pages9
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2008


  • Common health problems
  • Absence
  • Work
  • UK
  • Wales
  • Beliefs
  • Presenteeism


Dive into the research topics of 'Beliefs about common health problems and work: a qualitative study'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this