Behavioral and Psychophysiological Responses to Job Demands and Association with Musculoskeletal Symptoms in Computer Work

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Abstract

Introduction:

The purpose of this study was to identify and compare individual behavioral and psychophysiological responses to workload demands and stressors associated with the reporting of musculoskeletal symptoms with computer work. Evidence is growing that the prevalence of musculoskeletal symptoms increases with longer hours of computer work and exposure to psychosocial stressors such as high workloads and unrealistic deadlines. Workstyle, or how an individual worker behaves in response to such work demands, may also be an important factor associated with musculoskeletal symptoms in computer operators.

Method

Approximately 8,000 employees of the Australian Public Service were invited to complete an on-line survey if they worked with a computer for 15 or more hours per week. The survey was a composite of three questionnaires: the ASSET to measure perceived organizational stressors, Nordic Musculoskeletal Questionnaire to measure reported prevalence of musculoskeletal symptoms and additional questions to measure individual work behaviors and responses.

Results

934 completed surveys were accepted for analyses. Logistic regression was used to identify significant behavioral and work response predictors of musculoskeletal symptoms. Reporting of heightened muscle tension in response to workload pressure was more strongly associated, than other physical behavioral factors, with musculoskeletal symptoms for all body areas, particularly the neck (OR = 2.50, 95% CI: 2.09-2.99).

Conclusions

Individual Workstyles in response to workload demands and stressors, including working with heightened muscle tension and mental fatigue, were significantly associated with musculoskeletal symptoms. Future risk management strategies should have a greater focus on the identification and management of those organizational factors that are likely to encourage and exacerbate adverse Workstyles.

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