Questionnaire versus direct technical measurements in assessing postures and movements of the head, upper back, arms and hands

Scand J Work Environ Health. 2001 Feb;27(1):30-40. doi: 10.5271/sjweh.584.


Objectives: This study compares questionnaire-assessed exposure data on work postures and movements with direct technical measurements.

Methods: Inclinometers and goniometers were used to make full workday measurements of 41 office workers and 41 cleaners, stratified for such factors as musculoskeletal complaints. The subjects answered a questionnaire on work postures of the head, back, and upper arms and repeated movements of the arms and hands (3-point scales). The questionnaire had been developed on the basis of a previously validated one. For assessing worktasks and their durations, the subjects kept a 2-week worktask diary. Job exposure was individually calculated by time-weighting the task exposure measurements according to the diary.

Results: The agreement between the self-assessed and measured postures and movements was low (kappa = 0.06 for the mean within the occupational groups and kappa = 0.27 for the whole group). Cleaners had a higher measured workload than office workers giving the same questionnaire response. Moreover, the subjects with neck-shoulder complaints rated their exposure to movements as higher than those without complaints but with the same measured mechanical exposure. In addition, these subjects also showed a general tendency to rate their postural exposure as higher. The women rated their exposure higher than the men did.

Conclusions: The questionnaire-assessed exposure data had low validity. For the various response categories the measured exposure depended on occupation. Furthermore, there was a differential misclassification due to musculoskeletal complaints and gender. Thus it seems difficult to construct valid questionnaires on mechanical exposure for establishing generic exposure-response relations in epidemiologic studies, especially cross-sectional ones. Direct technical measurements may be preferable.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Arm / physiology
  • Data Collection
  • Female
  • Hand / physiology
  • Head / physiology
  • Humans
  • Industry*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Movement / physiology*
  • Musculoskeletal Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Musculoskeletal Diseases / prevention & control
  • Occupational Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Occupational Diseases / prevention & control
  • Posture / physiology*
  • Probability
  • Risk Assessment
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Sweden / epidemiology
  • Task Performance and Analysis*
  • Thoracic Vertebrae / physiology
  • Workload*