Does age matter in predicting musculoskeletal disorder risk? An analysis of workplace predictors over 4 years Academic Article uri icon


  • Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are a major workplace issue. With increasing pressure to extend working lives, predictors of MSD risk across all age groups require accurate identification to inform risk reduction strategies.In 2005 and 2009, a survey was conducted in a Finnish food processing company (N = 734). Data on workplace physical and psychosocial hazards, work ability, job satisfaction and lifestyle-related variables were collected, and MSD risk was measured through assessment of work-related strain in four body areas. Predictors of MSD risk across three age groups (20-35, 36-49, 50+) were assessed with linear regression analysis.Physical hazards and MSD risk were related differently for each age group. The relationship between psychosocial hazards and MSD risk was less clear. For younger workers, physical hazards were not associated with MSD risk. In contrast, for those aged 36-49, repetitive movements (B = 1.76, p < 0.001) and awkward postures (B = 1.30, p = 0.02) were associated with increased MSD risk. For older workers, environmental hazards were positively associated with MSD risk (B = 0.37, p = 0.04). Predictors of MSD risk changed differently for each age group during 4 years of follow-up. For younger workers, change in environment and repetitive movements, for middle age team support and for older workers change in awkward posture were significant predictors of MSD risk.These results support the need for workplace-specific hazard surveillance data. This will ensure that all contributing factors to MSD risk can be accurately identified and controlled independent of age.

publication date

  • 2016