Original article

Scand J Work Environ Health 2003;29(1):27-34    pdf


A shorter workday as a means of reducing the occurrence of musculoskeletal disorders

by Wergeland EL, Veiersted B, Ingre M, Olsson B, Åkerstedt T, Bjørnskau T, Varg N

Objectives The study examined the relation between daily workhours and the occurrence of neck-shoulder or back pain in physically demanding care work.

Methods Unpublished data were obtained from three intervention projects in care institutions. The projects had been conducted independently in Oslo (46 participants, 175 referents before and 158 referents after the intervention), Helsingborg (60 participants, 89 referents) and Stockholm (41 participants, 22 referents) between 1995 and 1998. The intervention was a reduction of daily workhours from ≥7 or more to 6 hours (or 30 hours weekly). Full-time salary was retained, and extra personnel were employed to compensate for the reduction in workhours. Data were collected by self-administered questionnaires before and during the intervention periods, lasting from 12 to 22 months.

Results The prevalence of neck-shoulder pain decreased from 40.9% to 25.6% in Oslo and from 57.1% to 39.1% in Helsingborg after 1.5 years with a 6-hour workday; for Stockholm the decrease was from 81.6% to 68.3% after 1 year. No decrease was observed in the reference groups. The prevalence of back pain did not show the same consistent pattern.

Conclusions The shortening of regular workdays from ≥7 hours to 6 hours may considerably reduce the prevalence of neck-shoulder pain among persons with physically demanding care work. The potential health benefits should encourage intervention studies also in other occupations with increased risk of work-related musculoskeletal disorders.

This article refers to the following text of the Journal: 1997;23(3):179-186