NIOSHIt’s no secret (to the EHS profession, anyway) that work affects health.

But exactly how does work affect health? What are the health consequences of specific employment factors, conditions and circumstances?

 Writing on the NIOSH Science Blog, Sara E. Luckhaupt, MD, MPH; Dara L. Burris, BS, say:

“You may have some hypotheses about how work affects the health of the U.S. population, but collecting data from a nationally representative sample is expensive and time-consuming. What if there was free data available at your fingertips? You’re in luck!”

In a NIOSH-sponsored Occupational Health Supplement (OHS) to the 2010 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), more 17 thousand U.S. workers supplied information on their industry, occupation, and the workplace health conditions and exposures – and NIOSH is making that information available to the public.

Dr. Luckhaupt is a medical epidemiologist in the NIOSH Division of Surveillance, Health Evaluations and Field Studies. Ms. Burris is an ORISE Fellow in the NIOSH Division of Surveillance, Health Evaluations and Field Studies.

“What novel associations might you be able to find concerning your area of interest?” they ask.

Topics covered in the OHS include non-standard work arrangements (such as temp jobs and alternative shifts); psychosocial factors ranging from job insecurity to a hostile work environment; and all kinds of hazardous exposures, whether they stem directly from work (vapors and gas fumes) or from co-workers (secondhand smoke).

Common work-related health conditions like carpal tunnel syndrome, dermatitis and asthma are also explored in the database. A surprising statistic: Dermatitis affected over 15 million workers in 2010, and was especially common among healthcare workers. For more information on this topic, view the full article. A not-so-surprising statistic: seven percent of the 11 million cases of asthma among U.S. workers are attributed to work. For more information on this topic, view thefull article.

Luckhaput and Burris are seeking suggestions for topics that should be included in the 2015 Occupational Health Supplement. Some proposed ideas: ergonomic exposures, work-related low back pain, work-related chronic joint pain, safety culture, and the general impact of work on health.

Click here to read the entire blog post and to provide ideas for future OHS data collection areas.