Self-reported musculoskeletal pain and working conditions among employees in the Swedish public sector

Work. 2007;28(1):33-46.


Musculoskeletal disorders constitute a considerable public health problem, often resulting in sickness absence, particularly in public sector employees. Increased knowledge on how this is related to individual and work-related factors is required. The objective of this study was to investigate the associations between self-reported musculoskeletal pain and the following factors: physical and psychosocial work conditions, lifestyle, psychosomatic symptoms and sick leave. A comprehensive questionnaire was completed by a total of 2523 people, of which 87% were women and 13% men. The participants were employed in public hospitals, educational institutions, home care services for the elderly and domestic/catering services in a Swedish county. The response rate was 92%. Multiple logistic regression analyses showed that the high level of self-reported musculoskeletal pain was highly associated with strenuous physical and psychosocial work conditions. The physical factor with the highest odds ratio (OR) was working in a forward-bent position. High work demands was the most prominent psychosocial factor and distinctly associated with musculoskeletal pain among men. Physical work strain and other demanding working conditions, which were associated with musculoskeletal pain, were frequent among employees in home care services for the elderly and domestic/catering services. There was a strong association between long-term sick leave and high musculoskeletal pain. Furthermore, there was a strong association between a high level of musculoskeletal pain and the exhibition of psychosomatic symptoms in both women and men; this is an interaction that may intensify the total experience of illness and thus needs to be further investigated.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Musculoskeletal Diseases / physiopathology*
  • Pain / epidemiology*
  • Public Sector
  • Self Disclosure*
  • Sweden / epidemiology
  • Workplace*