OBJECTIVES: The objective was to answer the following questions: What is the prevalence of potentially work-related diseases in the general practice population? What is the incidence of consulting a GP for a potentially work-related disease? What is the relationship between diseases seen in general practice and work ability?
METHODS: Cochrane standards and QUOROM principals were used. For this systematic review the available literature was identified in a computerized search of the bibliographical databases Medline, Embase and Osh-rom. A total of 22 publications (24 studies) met the inclusion criteria.
RESULTS: In the general practice population high prevalence rates of potentially work-related diseases were found for low back pain, neck pain and shoulder pain. Incidence rates of consulting a GP for a potentially work-related disease were high also. Musculoskeletal disorders were the main reasons for work-related consultations in general practice. Work-related diseases can affect work ability.
CONCLUSIONS: Work-related diseases are common, given the high incidence and prevalence of potentially work-related diseases found in the general practice population and seen by the GP. This review underlines the important role of GPs in identifying and managing work-related diseases. GPs should consider the work factor and pay special attention to the effects of work on health, because patients often link their work with their illness.