Original article

Scand J Work Environ Health 1994;20(2):139-145    pdf

doi:10.5271/sjweh.1419 | Issue date: 01 Apr 1994

Psychosocial stressors at work and musculoskeletal problems.

by Houtman IL, Bongers PM, Smulders PG, Kompier MA

OBJECTIVES This paper examines the relationship between work stressors and the following health indicators: psychosomatic complaints, health behavior, and musculoskeletal problems.

METHODS Secondary analyses were performed on data from the National Work and Living Condition Survey, which provides a representative sample of the working population in The Netherlands. The survey was made in 1977, 1983, and 1986 by The Netherlands Central Bureau of Statistics. By means of factor analysis the following three risk dimensions were identified in the survey: work pace, intellectual discretion, and physical stressors.

RESULTS High work pace, low intellectual discretion, and physical stressors were associated with increased health complaints (both psychosomatic and musculoskeletal) and musculoskeletal disorders after adjustment for gender, age, education, and sports participation. Low intellectual discretion, but not high work pace, was associated with poor general health and health behavior indicative of poor health. Physical stressors were associated with general health as well, but not with health behavior, except for reported absenteeism.

CONCLUSIONS Psychosocial stressors are not only associated with psychosomatic complaints and health indicators, but also with musculoskeletal problems, both acute and chronic. Especially the relation between intellectual discretion and musculoskeletal problems can be partly attributed to physical load. Even after adjustment for physical stressors and moderating personal characteristics, the relationships between the psychosocial stressors and musculoskeletal problems remained significant and comparable in strength to the relationship between psychosocial stressors and several other health outcomes, such as psychosomatic complaints.