Background: Many studies have shown that musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) have important economic and social consequences, including substantial costs and loss of productivity for industries. However, little is known about the impact of these conditions on sickness absence in industries.
Aim: To describe the sickness absence taken for MSDs of the upper limb (ULD) in a French company and to study their association with demographic and socioeconomic factors.
Methods: Sickness absence from 2000 to 2004 (5543 episodes) was studied using data from the company's epidemiology registry and a questionnaire for each episode was completed by physicians. Incidence rates were calculated according to the gender, socioeconomic status and age.
Results: The incidence rate of absence for ULD was six episodes per 1000 person-years. Rotator cuff syndrome and carpal tunnel syndrome were the most frequent diagnoses. Less frequent diagnoses, such as Guyon's canal syndrome, had longer sickness absence (55.3 days). Incidence was higher for women and blue-collar workers. Incidence also increased with age.
Conclusions: These results are consistent with other studies. Although absenteeism cannot be a surrogate for disease burden or incidence, it may be useful in the prevention of ULD, as it identifies the most disabling diagnoses and the working groups most at risk.