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The Health Benefits of Work (Part 4)

The proposition that there are any proven “Health Benefits of Work” has finally been put to rest. Here is the abstract from a recently published article in the New Zealand Medical Journal (NZMJ 20 November 2015, Vol 128 No 1425), written by Dr Gordon Purdie:

The Australasian Faculty of Occupational and Environmental Medicine released a position statement which included statements about the chance of ever getting back to work if a person is off work for 20, 45 and 70 days. These statements are being repeated by government and non-government agencies in New Zealand and Australia. They have been presented with the intent to influence public policy. They are presented to general practitioners in the context of certifying people as unfit for work. The statements are based on an incorrect interpretation of the referenced study, are not justified and should be corrected.

Dr Purdie’s criticism was accepted by the the Faculty of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, RACP (NZMJ 19 February 2016, Vol 129 No 1430):

Dr Purdie makes a number of points about information in the Health Benefits of Work position statement and subsequent publications. We respond to his points in turn. Dr Purdie raised concerns that we have misinterpreted or misrepresented the survival curves. We concur, in retrospect, that we have not interpreted the survival curve correctly. We thank Dr Purdie for drawing this to our attention. The curve does indicate that the longer someone is off work the lower the chance of the individual returning to work, however the percentages quoted are not accurate. The concordance of the evidence supports the principle, if not the precise detail. We have recently published an update of the evidence and we plan to update the position statement.

We await the new position statement. Clearly, if there is no evidence to support the “Health Benefits of Work”, the various stakeholders, such as the State WorkCover authorities should be informed immediately.


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