Scand J Work Environ Health 2022;48(4):253-263    pdf full text

doi:10.5271/sjweh.4018 | Published online: 08 Mar 2022, Issue date: 01 May 2022

Can we distinguish the roles of demographic and temporal changes in the incidence and prevalence of musculoskeletal disorders? A systematic review

by Bouziri H, Descatha A, Roquelaure Y, Dab W, Jean K

Objectives Musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) represent a major public health issue, affecting more then 40 million European workers in 2017. The overall aging of the working population is expected to increase the burden of disease, but temporal changes in exposures or diagnosis may also drive the global trends in MSD. We therefore conducted a systematic review to summarize the evidence on the role of demographic and temporal changes in the occurrence of MSD.

Methods We conducted a systematic review of articles reporting temporal trends in MSD in the general working-age population. Only articles controlling for age in the analysis were included. The risk of bias was assessed. The main indicators extracted were age-controlled time trends in MSD incidence or prevalence.

Results Among 966 articles, 16 fulfilled the inclusion criteria, representing 23 results according to the indicators extracted. No study was found with a high risk of bias. Results presenting time trends in prevalence were found in 12 studies and incidence in 11. After controlling for age, the reported temporal trends varied, mostly between non-monotonic changes (N=12/23) and increases (N=10/23). One article also highlighted an increase among women and non-monotonic changes among men (N=1/23). Several factors other than aging were suggested to explain temporal trends in MSD, mainly trends in obesity, changing occupational exposures, and cultural factors regarding pain tolerance.

Conclusion This review shows that different kind of factors in addition to aging may contribute to varying or increasing trends in MSD. This review also highlighted the scarcity of evidence regarding time trends in the burden of MSD and their underlying causes.

This article refers to the following text of the Journal: 2018;44(2):113-133
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