Objective: Upper extremity disorders (UED) are prevalent in working populations. This study investigates the prevalence, magnitude, and associated factors of on-the-job productivity loss among workers with UED.
Methods: Workers with incipient upper extremity symptoms were invited to participate in our study after the disorder was verified by a physician and no immediate sick leave was required. Of the 177 eligible patients, 168 (95%) were included in the study. They were asked to describe their symptoms, personal characteristics, and work-related factors. Self-assessed productivity measured the impact of UED on the achieved work output.
Results: Of the 168 participants, 56% reported a productivity loss; the average reduction thereof was 34%. Productivity loss was associated with pain intensity [odds ratio (OR) for the third tertile 2.8, 95% confidence interval (95% CI) 1.2-6.5], pain interference with work (OR for the third tertile 5.7, 95% CI 2.2-14.3) and fear-avoidance beliefs (OR 2.8, 95% CI 0.9-8.9). Pain interference with sleep was associated with productivity loss only among those aged 46 years or older, whereas high job strain showed an association with productivity loss only among workers aged 20-45 years. In the younger group, productivity loss was more associated with a combination of any two of the following three factors than the presence of only one: pain intensity, job strain, and physical loads at work.
Conclusions: UED cause substantial loss of productivity at work. The most important associated factors are related to pain and its impact on work and sleep, but also to psychological aspects of pain and work. Our findings suggest that the factors associated with productivity loss differ in younger and older workers.