This study includes women and men born between 1934 and 1953 in the municipality of Gnosjö in the south of Sweden and covers the period 1998 to 2001. Compared with the country, a large proportion of the population of the municipality of Gnosjö works in the manufacturing industry. The aim was to examine associations between physical and psychological stress factors in and outside work, sickness absence and cardiovascular and musculoskeletal diseases, from a gender perspective. Information about working conditions and other aspect of life was collected by a questionnaire in 1998, and register data about sickness absence, cardiovascular diseases and musculoskeletal diseases 1999-2001. The impact on sickness absence consisted mainly of demand and control aspects of the psychosocial working conditions, but also temporary employment and of low sense of coherence. In relation to musculoskeletal health, demand and control was important among women, but not among men. Very few physical factors in the work environment were related to musculoskeletal diseases. Low sense of coherence had an impact also on musculoskeletal diseases. Cardiovascular diseases among women were influenced by demand and control and by life style related factors. We hope that the knowledge gained from our study makes it possible to develop better tools for both the preventive work in Gnosjö and for the rehabilitation of the people already ill. Because of our holistic approach, both public health aspects and working life aspects are covered. The municipality of Gnosjö is small, and therefore foreseeable in a way that many municipalities are not. Still, we do believe that our finding, in this longitudinal study, can be of value also in the public efforts and the efforts to develop adequate and successful rehabilitation approaches.