New facts and figures

Jukka Takala

In my earlier blog “Latest news on the global and European burden of disease and injury at work” I had estimated that there could be some 18.7 million people suffering from health problems in the EU27. This was derived from my extrapolation based on the self-reported illness surveys in Finland and UK. This is also a reply to Steve’s question on European statistics.

We now have information from Eurostat, the statistical arm of the European Commission: 20 million workers, representing 8.6% of the European workforce experience work-related health problems. Another 7 million or 3.2% had an accident during the year 2007. This information has been extracted from the Eurostat report “Statistics in Focus 63/2009” and based on the Labour Force Survey , currently available in English, French and German.  I calculated the Spanish accident numbers from the data given – resulting in 680 000 accidents in 2007 - and I was quite pleased to see that the survey produced well matching results with two other methods: our earlier estimates in the ILO study were 678 803 accidents, while the recorded 2003 number was 872 610. This last figure is from the year 2003 and also covers diseases that result in instant deaths at work, such as cardiovascular diseases. So the three sources and numbers validate each other.  Anyone can calculate their own country results from the Eurostat data, and compare them to their own sources.

However, the key point is that the magnitude of health problems is much bigger also with this measure.


Another issue was that the reporting was not at all uniform in different Member States. Finland reported most health problems and Ireland the least. However, if you look at the more serious outcomes: limitations in every day activities and long term (>1 months) sickness absence, the picture is very different. In general, those countries that report most health problems have a lower number of serious problems and vice versa. Some exceptions exist where a low level of health problems has been experienced and a low level of serious outcomes appear (Ireland, Malta…). There has also been the case where some countries have had a high level of reporting and a high level of serious problems (NL, AT..).

Also to be taken into account is the economic structure which can have an impact, as well as the criteria for official recording and notification.  Problems that are recorded and compensated are more likely to be reported in this type of survey – a country’s perception on what is an accident and a health problem is obviously different.