12/03/2004

The role of work stress and psychological factors in the development of musculoskeletal disorders

The British HSE has published a research report on the role of work stress and
psychological factors in the development of musculoskeletal disorders. This
research was conducted to establish the role of stress and other psychological
factors on the development and reporting of musculoskeletal disorders. There
were two main objectives. Firstly, to investigate factors that increased the
likelihood of reporting high perceived job stress and secondly to investigate
whether high perceived job stress and other stress reactions increased the
likelihood of reporting musculoskeletal complaints.

The report shows:

Individual factors such as age, gender, neuroticism, rumination and lay beliefs
about the causes and alleviation of stress were associated with reporting high
perceived job stress. However, none of these factors increased the likelihood
of reporting this outcome among workers who developed high perceived job stress
during the follow-up.

In the base-line cross-sectional study, workers highly exposed to both physical
(always or often working with the back in an awkward position) and psychosocial
work risk factors (extrinsic effort, intrinsic effort, role ambiguity, role
conflict and verbal abuse or confrontations with clients or the general public)
had the greatest likelihood of reporting high perceived job stress.

Lay beliefs about the causes and alleviation of stress did not increase the
likelihood of reporting new episodes of self-reported musculoskeletal
complaints.

In general, individual factors (such as neuroticism, rumination, job
satisfaction, negative mood and demographics) were not implicated in the
causation of self-reported musculoskeletal complaints. However, increasing age
was a significant factor for both self-reported elbows/forearm complaints and
for shoulder complaints, whilst being female was a significant factor for
reporting shoulder complaints.

In the cross-sectional study, high exposure to both physical and psychosocial
work risk factors was associated with the reporting of low-back, upper back,
neck, shoulder, elbow/forearm and hand/wrist musculoskeletal complaints. The
specific risk factors are shown in the summary box below. A tentative
interaction effect between physical and psychosocial workplace risk factors was
observed for the lower back, the neck, the shoulder, the elbow/forearm and the
hand/wrists but not for the upper back.

In the follow-up study, high exposure to both physical and psychosocial work
risk factors also increased the likelihood of reporting new episodes of
self-reported low-back, neck, shoulder, elbow/forearm and hand/wrist
complaints.. High exposure to both physical and psychosocial work risk factors
did not increase the likelihood of reporting new episodes of upper back
complaints.

The report concludes:


  • Individual stress reactions, for example, depression and psychosomatic
    symptoms acted independently to increase the likelihood of developing
    self-reported musculoskeletal complaints.
  • Perceived job stress may act as an intermediate factor between high
    exposure to physical and psychosocial work risk factors and the reporting of
    some musculoskeletal complaints.
  • High exposure to both physical and psychosocial work risk factors resulted
    in the greatest likelihood of reporting musculoskeletal complaints.
  • Interventions designed to reduce the risk of self-reported musculoskeletal
    complaints need to consider the degree of exposure both to physical work risk
    factors and psychosocial work risk factors. They should also consider the
    individual stress reactions that workers may be experiencing. Further research
    on interventions for reducing both work-related stress and work-related
    musculoskeletal disorders is needed.

Further Information


AplusA-online.de - Source: Health and Safety Executive