The contribution of musculoskeletal disorders and physical workload to socioeconomic inequalities in health

Eur J Public Health. 2007 Apr;17(2):145-50. doi: 10.1093/eurpub/ckl121. Epub 2006 Sep 5.


Objectives: The objective of the study was to examine whether the association of physical workload with musculoskeletal disorders might explain occupational social class inequalities in self-rated health.

Methods: Participants of the study were 40-60 years old employees of the City of Helsinki. The data (n = 3740) were derived from several sources, including mail survey designed by the researchers and health check-ups carried out by occupational health care. Prevalence data and logistic regression were used in the analyses.

Results: An occupational class gradient was found for musculoskeletal disorders. The gradient in musculoskeletal disorders was largely explained by physical demands at work in both genders. The contribution of physical demands to occupational class gradient in self-rated health was considerable in women, but smaller in men. The contribution of musculoskeletal disorder to the occupational class gradient in self-rated health was weak for both genders.

Conclusion: Physical workload is likely to considerably contribute to inequalities in health. Mediation of this effect through musculoskeletal disorder to generic health, however, could not be demonstrated. Different mechanisms are likely to cause inequalities in different health outcomes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Finland / epidemiology
  • Government Agencies
  • Health Status
  • Health Status Indicators
  • Humans
  • Local Government
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Musculoskeletal Diseases / economics*
  • Musculoskeletal Diseases / epidemiology
  • Occupational Diseases / economics*
  • Occupational Diseases / epidemiology
  • Occupations / classification
  • Physical Exertion / physiology*
  • Prevalence
  • Social Class
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Urban Health
  • Workload / statistics & numerical data*