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How Does Work Affect the Health of the U.S. Population? Free Data from the 2010 NHIS-OHS Provides the Answers

Categories: Agriculture, Forestry, and Fishing, Construction, Emergency Response/Public Sector, Healthcare, Manufacturing, Mining, Oil and Gas, Safety and Health Data, Service Sector, Temporary/Contingent Workers, Transportation, Wholesale and Retail Trade

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!

NIOSH sponsored an Occupational Health Supplement (OHS) to the 2010 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), and the data is publicly available. See the NIOSH Topic Page for more information. Over 17 thousand current and recent U.S. workers supplied information on their industry, occupation, and the workplace health conditions and exposures listed below. Initial results have been published in the June issue of the American Journal of Industrial Medicine. We have provided a summary of the research and links to the articles below. What novel associations might you be able to find concerning your area of interest? We would also like your input on topics to cover in the 2015 survey. See the end of this post for information on how to suggest ideas.

Work Organization Characteristics: Non-standard work arrangements; Temporary positions; Alternative Shifts

The changing nature of work has led to work organization characteristics that may adversely impact health. In 2010, non-standard work arrangements which include independent contracting or consulting, freelancing, being on-call, and working through a temporary agency or contractor were held by 19% of U.S. workers and 7% were employed in temporary positions. Among all U.S. workers, 29% worked an alternative shift (a shift other than a regular day shift) and almost 19% worked 48 or more hours per week. For more information on these topics, and to see which industries and occupations reported the highest rates of exposure, view the full article.

Psychosocial Factors: Job insecurity; Work-family imbalance; Hostile work environment

Monitoring psychosocial factors is important in preventing workplace stress and promoting mental and physical health. In 2010, 32% of U.S. workers experienced job insecurity, 16% had difficulty combining work and family responsibilities, and nearly 8% were bullied or harassed at work. For more information on these topics, view the full article.

Hazardous Exposures: Skin hazards; Outdoor work; Secondhand smoke; Other respiratory hazards (Vapors, gas, dust and fumes )

Did you think that hazardous workplace physical and chemical exposures were a thing of the past? In 2010, about 20% of U.S. workers experienced frequent occupational skin contact with chemicals, and almost 25% frequently worked outdoors. Despite increases in smoke-free workplace policies, 10% of non-smoking U.S. workers were exposed to secondhand smoke at work. And, when asked about their longest-held jobs, 25% reported chronic exposure to vapors, dust, gas, or fumes. For more information on these topics, and to see which industries and occupations reported the highest rates of exposure, view the full article.

Common Work-related Health Conditions: Carpal tunnel syndrome, Dermatitis, Asthma

Carpal tunnel syndrome affected almost 5 million workers in 2010, and 2/3 of cases were attributed to work. For more information on this topic, view the full article.

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.

Among U.S. workers, over 11 million had asthma and around 7% of these cases were attributed to work. For more information on this topic, view the full article.

What’s next?

More free data! NHIS will include another Occupational Health Supplement in 2015. Some proposed ideas for the 2015 survey include ergonomic exposures, work-related low back pain, work-related chronic joint pain, safety culture, and the general impact of work on health. What occupational health related questions would you like to see on the next survey? Please provide feedback in the comment section below. We’ll need your ideas by November 2013.

Sara E. Luckhaupt, MD, MPH; Dara L. Burris, BS

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.

Public Comments

Comments listed below are posted by individuals not associated with CDC, unless otherwise stated. These comments do not represent the official views of CDC, and CDC does not guarantee that any information posted by individuals on this site is correct, and disclaims any liability for any loss or damage resulting from reliance on any such information. Read more about our comment policy ».

  1. June 24, 2013 at 11:00 am ET  -   Nayake Balalla

    An excellent survey and I really appreciate your hard work.

    Link to this comment

  2. June 25, 2013 at 12:00 am ET  -   Derek G. Shendell, D.Env, MPH

    Thank you for your efforts on the NHIS 2010 supplement and proposed 2015 supplement. In addition to the topics and variables covered in 2010–to allow comparisons over time–it would be great if more self-reported detail can be elucidated on individual occupational asthma symptoms; on more specific age groups like 14-15, 16-17, 18-21 or 18-25 (to include minors working legally in agriculture and non-agricultural positions as well as young adults); on race/ethnicity; and on emerging sectors like cosmetology and allied health sciences.

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    • AUTHOR COMMENT June 26, 2013 at 11:08 am ET  -   Sara Luckhaupt

      Thank you for your comment, Dr. Shendell. We agree that it would be nice to have more national data on occupational asthma among minors and young adults, but there are some limitations to expanding on this topic within the NHIS-OHS. First, like the 2010 supplement, the 2015 supplement will only be administered to sample adults (aged 18 and older). Second, although the overall sample size for workers is large, subsamples within narrow age groups (e.g., 18-21) and occupation/industry categories (e.g., cosmetology) are small, so it is difficult to analyze and interpret data for very specific groups. We will keep your suggestion in mind though.

      Link to this comment

  3. June 26, 2013 at 12:23 pm ET  -   Kathryn Sanfilippo

    I being someone to whom broke my neck on the job in CA. in 1993, then being fired with no surgical coverage find that the state has a problem with dumping cases onto spousal and defer the individual to spousal coverage. The refusal to allow trial and support testimony by medical surgical teams of the denied surgery is crime.

    Link to this comment

  4. June 27, 2013 at 4:48 pm ET  -   Keilike

    Thanks for the article, my sister has dermatitis. So looking and searching information and statistic about it directed me to here, now I have used information given in the linked articles. It was really helpful for my research. Thanks again!

    Keili Saarepuu

    Link to this comment

  5. July 26, 2013 at 5:13 pm ET  -   allvouchercouk

    thank you for your article ,
    The population of older adults will grow dramatically over the next 50 years, especially
    the “oldest old” (those 85 and older)……….

    Link to this comment

  6. January 2, 2014 at 10:05 am ET  -   Susan Beech

    I would have to agree with the comment above. It would be great to see different age group breakdowns in the next survey in 2015. It’s interesting to see these trends.

    Link to this comment

    • AUTHOR COMMENT January 10, 2014 at 1:08 pm ET  -   Sara E. Luckhaupt

      Thank you for your comment. The 2010 data that are currently publicly available, as well as the upcoming 2015 data, can be analyzed using any age groupings an individual chooses. You can access the survey data at

      Link to this comment

  7. February 12, 2014 at 1:25 pm ET  -   Allard Dembe

    I think it is very important to retain the work-hour questions as well as the shiftwork questions. I’d also like to see a set of questions about the overlap between chronic diseases and occupational health. For example, to ask injured workers what kind of co-occurring chronic conditions they have, and perhaps questions to see how chronic conditions (asthma, diabetes, arthritic, etc) affect work performance.

    Link to this comment

    • AUTHOR COMMENT February 26, 2014 at 2:05 pm ET  -   Sara Luckhaupt

      We agree that further study of the overlap between chronic diseases and occupational health is warranted. One of the advantages of embedding occupational health questions within the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) is that the occupational health variables are stored within the sample adult dataset, which contains many variables related to chronic disease which are collected as part of the core NHIS sample adult survey every year. Since the NHIS data are publicly available, anyone with the necessary analytic skills, including students, can analyze these data to study specific relationships of interest.

      Link to this comment

  8. July 15, 2014 at 10:35 pm ET  -   Thomas

    It would be interesting to know data on the working population affectation on infection by the fungus candida (candidiasis) both men and women.

    Link to this comment

  9. September 24, 2014 at 3:14 am ET  -   helpingtimes

    I go through your post. the content is very good and contains useful information. we will wait for future posts. thanks and good luck!!

    Link to this comment

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