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Physical and psychosocial risk factors for musculoskeletal disorders in New Zealand nurses, postal workers and office workers

Abstract

Objective To investigate the association of physical and psychosocial risk factors with musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) in New Zealand nurses, postal workers and office workers.

Design A cross-sectional postal survey asking about demographic, physical and psychosocial factors and MSDs.

Participants A total of 911 participants was randomly selected; nurses from the Nursing Council of New Zealand database (n=280), postal workers from their employer's database (n=280) and office workers from the 2005 electoral roll (n=351).

Outcome Measures Self-reported pain in the low back, neck, shoulder, elbow, wrist/hand or knee lasting more than 1 day in the month before the survey.

Results The response rate was 58%, 443 from 770 potential participants. 70% (n=310) reported at least one MSDs. Physical work tasks were associated with low back (odds ratio (OR) 1.35, 95% CI 1.14 to 1.6), shoulder (OR 1.41, 95% CI 1.17 to 1.69), elbow (OR 1.14, 95% CI 1.13 to 1.83) and wrist/hand pain (OR 1.39, 95% CI 1.15 to 1.69). Job strain had the strongest association with neck pain (OR 3.46, 95% CI 1.30 to 9.21) and wrist/hand pain. Somatisation was weakly associated with MSDs at most sites. Better general and mental health status were weakly associated with lower odds of MSDs.

Conclusions In injury prevention and rehabilitation the physical nature of the work needs to be addressed for most MSDs, with modest decreases in risk seemingly possible. Addressing job strain could provide significant benefit for those with neck and wrist/hand pain, while the effects of somatisation and the promotion of good mental health may provide smaller but global benefits.

  • Musculoskeletal disorders
  • occupational exposure
  • psychosocial factors
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