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Open Access Research article

Work Hours and Self rated Health of Hospital Doctors in Norway and Germany. A comparative study on national samples

Judith Rosta1* and Olaf G Aasland23

Author Affiliations

1 The Research Institute of the Norwegian Medical Association, P.O.B 1152 Sentrum 0107 Oslo, Norway

2 The Research Institute of the Norwegian Medical Association, P.O.B 1152 Sentrum 0107 Oslo, Norway

3 Institute of Health and Society, Department of Health Management and Health Economics, University of Oslo, Norway

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BMC Health Services Research 2011, 11:40  doi:10.1186/1472-6963-11-40

Published: 21 February 2011



The relationship between extended work hours and health is well documented among hospital doctors, but the effect of national differences in work hours on health is unexplored. The study examines the relationship between work hours and self rated health in two national samples of hospital doctors.


The study population consisted of representative samples of 1,260 German and 562 Norwegian hospital doctors aged 25-65 years (N = 1,822) who received postal questionnaires in 2006 (Germany) and 2008 (Norway). The questionnaires contained items on demography, work hours (number of hours per workday and on-call per month) and self rated subjective health on a five point scale - dichotomized into "good" (above average) and "average or below".


Compared to Norway, a significantly higher proportion of German doctors exceeded a 9 hour work day (58.8% vs. 26.7%) and 60 hours on-call per month (63.4% vs. 18.3%). Every third (32.2%) hospital doctor in Germany worked more than this, while this pattern was rare in Norway (2.9%). In a logistic regression model, working in Norway (OR 4.17; 95% CI 3.02-5.73), age 25-44 years (OR 1.66; 95% CI 1.29-2.14) and not exceeding 9 hour work day and 60 hours on-call per month (OR 1.35; 95% CI 1.03-1.77) were all independent significant predictors of good self reported health.


A lower percentage of German hospital doctors reported self rated health as "good", which is partly explained by the differences in work time pattern. Initiatives to increase doctors' control over their work time are recommended.