Effect of informal employment on the relationship between psychosocial work risk factors and musculoskeletal pain in Central American workers

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Abstract

Introduction

The constant increase on the psychosocial demands experienced at work seems to contribute to the increase in health problems such as musculoskeletal pain (MSP). This association may be especially important in low-income and middle-income countries, where there is a large proportion of informal workers among whom there is little research. We analysed the association between psychosocial work risk factors and MSP among formal and informal workers using the First Central American Survey of Working Conditions and Health.

Methods

This is a representative sample (n=12 024) of the economically active population of the six Spanish-speaking countries of Central America. Prevalence ratios (PR) and corresponding 95% CIs from Poisson regression models were used to estimate the association between psychosocial work risk factors and the MSP.

Results

Compared with formal workers, informal workers reported higher prevalence of MPS in the body regions analysed (ie, cervicodorsal, lumbosacral, upper extremities) and higher exposure to psychosocial work risk factors. However, on the whole, the associations between the exposure to psychosocial work risk factors and the prevalence of MSP were similar for both formal and informal workers. Only the association between exposure to high demands and MSP in the upper extremities was higher (p=0.012) among formal (PR=1.69, 95% CI 1.46 to 1.96) than among informal workers (PR=1.40; 95% CI 1.30 to 1.51).

Conclusion

Exposure to adverse levels of psychosocial work risk factors is associated with higher prevalence of MPS among both formal and informal workers. However, the role of employment informality in this association is complex and requires further examination.

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