menu ☰
menu ˟

Structure and Control of Healthy Worker Effects in Studies of Pregnancy Outcomes

21 Dec 2019

AbstractMuch of the literature on the healthy worker effect focuses on studies of chronic disease and mortality; however, when studying pregnancy outcomes, these effects might differ because of the short, defined risk periods of most pregnancy outcomes. Three pregnancy-specific healthy worker effects have also been described, but the structure of these effects has not yet been investigated when occupational exposure, and not employment status, is the exposure of interest. We used directed acyclic graphs to examine healthy worker effects in studies of occupational exposures and pregnancy outcomes: the healthy hire effect, the healthy worker survivor effect, the desperation/privilege effect (differential workforce reentry after pregnancy), the reproductively unhealthy worker effect (women with live births leave the workforce, while women with nonlive births do not), and the insecure pregnancy effect (women with adverse pregnancy outcomes reduce their exposures in subsequent pregnancies). Given our assumptions, we conclude that the healthy hire effect, the desperation/privilege effect, the reproductively unhealthy worker effect, and the insecure pregnancy effect result from confounding that can be addressed if data on measured confounders, such as employment status, are available. The presence of the healthy worker survivor effect, however, varies by study design. Different types of healthy worker effects can be present in studies of occupational exposure and pregnancy outcomes, and many of them are easily addressed analytically.

Click here to view the full article which appeared in American Journal of Epidemiology