Systematic review of factors associated with occupational disease among young people

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Published: September 2006

by: Breslin FC, Day D, Tompa E, Irvin E, Bhattacharyya S, Clarke J, Wang A, Koehoorn M

Work is a common part of the lives of most North American adolescents and young adults. Although there is much concern regarding work injury among youth, less attention has been paid to the incidence and risk factors for occupational disease and illness among young workers. 

The Institute for Work & Health (IWH) aimed to fill this gap by conducting a systematic review guided by the question: What individual, job and workplace factors are associated with occupational disease among young people 12 to 24 years of age? There are several reasons to assess the literature on occupational disease among young workers. First, young workers are concentrated in certain industries and jobs, which may lead to different patterns of exposures than adult workers. Second, because young workers also tend to be new workers who are exposed to hazards for the first time, the link between exposure and disease may be clearer. Finally, young workers may be particularly vulnerable to some occupational diseases because early exposures occur during a time of rapid physical development.

This report reveals what the literature says in response to the issue of occupational disease among young workers. The report is the second from IWH to focus on young workers in response to the Workplace Safety & Insurance Board’s interest in a comprehensive prevention strategy in this area. The first systematic review report, published in 2005, focused on injuries among young workers.