Common health problems, yellow flags and functioning in a community setting

Rhiannon Buck, M C Barnes, D Cohen, M Aylward

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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 (F 9,457 = 36.54, P < 0.001, adjusted R 2 = 0.407) and time off work (F 4,462 = 31.22, P < 0.001, adjusted R 2 = 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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)235-246
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Occupational Rehabilitation
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2010


  • work
  • causal attributions
  • functioning
  • psychosocial factors
  • catastrophizing


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