Can a single-item measure assess physical load at work? An analysis from the GAZEL cohort

J Occup Environ Med. 2012 May;54(5):598-603. doi: 10.1097/JOM.0b013e31824af5a8.


Objective: The assessment of workplace physical load is highly resource intensive. This study tested whether a single-item measure asking individuals about perceived physical strain (PPS) at work was an acceptable proxy for physical load.

Methods: The study was conducted in a subset of the GAZEL cohort (n = 2612) undergoing assessment of exposure to 38 occupational biomechanical constraints (representing eight domains) in 1994. Test-retest reliability analyses compared PPS in 1994 and 1995. Validity analyses compared PPS in 1994 to concurrent strains assessed in the more extensive measure.

Results: The measure showed adequate test-retest reliability. Within and across domains of physical load, linear relationships (P < 0.0001) existed between n exposures and PPS. Domains considered more strenuous (carrying loads, pulling objects) showed the highest PPS.

Conclusions: Perceived physical strain approximates physical load in the absence of detailed measures. Perceived physical strain could be used in nonoccupational epidemiologic studies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • France
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Physical Exertion*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Self Report*
  • Workload*