Factors Associated with Work Ability in a Population of Dock Workers

Chiara Costa, Manuela Pollicino, Giusi Briguglio, Alessandra Verzera, Manuela Coco, Francesca Verduci, Giuseppe Lembo, Angela Alibrandi, Elvira Micali, Concettina Fenga


Background: Work ability consists in the balance between employee’s capabilities and work demands. It can be measured by the Work Ability Index, a validated questionnaire that has been used in Europe since 1980s. This study is the first evaluating work ability among dock workers, a workforce which carries out complex activities requiring physical and mental engagement (night shifts, irregular shifts, constant demand for attention and concentration and significant physical effort). 

Objective: It was hypothized that the high strain level affecting this peculiar job may lead to a decrease in work ability. The aim of the study was to assess work ability and investigate if and how much not work-related factors, such as psycho-emotional state, lifestyle, health conditions and socio-demographic aspects, can interfere with it. Psycho-diagnostic protocol consisted of 6 questionnaires, chosen because of fast and effective data collection aiming to worker compliance and simple interpretation of results.

Method: A total of 105 workers was engaged in different companies involved in port services. A protocol consisting of 6 questionnaires has been applied individually before the work shift: Work Ability Index (WAI), Effort-reward imbalance questionnaire (ERI), Beck Depression Inventory-II (BDI-II), Hamilton Rating Scale for Anxiety (HAM-A), Epworth Sleepiness Scale (ESS), Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI).

Results: Work ability resulted excellent in 60 subjects and good in 37. No significant correlation between individual characteristics and work ability was found. Our results indicated that work ability was negatively related with emotional states, particularly with anxiety. Univariate and multivariate linear regression model for work ability, have shown a statistically significant correlation with BDI, HAM-A and ERI questionnaires’ results.

Conclusion: Our results showed that WAI is a useful tool for routine occupational health surveillance. The association of work ability with psychosocial factors suggests that actions at the workplace adopted by occupational physicians in order to prevent a reduction in working capacity, should have a multidimensional approach evaluating not only individual lifestyle, but also mood states.


Dock Workers; Work Ability; Sleep Disturbances; Work Related Stress.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.13129/2282-1619/mjcp-2954


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