Sex differences in task distribution and task exposures among Danish house painters: an observational study combining questionnaire data with biomechanical measurements

PLoS One. 2014 Nov 3;9(11):e110899. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0110899. eCollection 2014.


Objectives: Sex differences in occupational biomechanical exposures may be part of the explanation why musculoskeletal complaints and disorders tend to be more common among women than among men. We aimed to determine possible sex differences in task distribution and task-specific postures and movements of the upper extremities among Danish house painters, and to establish sex-specific task exposure matrices.

Methods: To obtain task distributions, we sent out a questionnaire to all members of the Painters' Union in Denmark (N = 9364), of whom 53% responded. Respondents reported their task distributions in a typical week. To obtain task exposures, postures and movements were measured in 25 male and 25 female house painters for one whole working day per person. We used goniometers on the wrists, and inclinometers on the forehead and the upper arms. Participants filled in a logbook allowing task-specific exposures to be identified. Percentiles and % time with non-neutral postures were used to characterise postures. Velocity, range of motion, repetitiveness, and variation were used as measures of movement. Cochran-Mantel-Haenszel statistics and unpaired double-sided t-tests with post-hoc Bonferroni correction were used to evaluate sex differences.

Results: Statistically significant (p<0.05) sex differences were revealed in task proportions, but the proportions differed by less than 4%. For task exposures, no statistically significant sex differences were found.

Conclusions: Only minor sex differences were found in task distribution and task exposures regarding postures and movements among Danish house painters. Sex-specific task exposure matrices were established.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Denmark / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Occupational Diseases / epidemiology
  • Occupational Diseases / etiology
  • Occupational Exposure / statistics & numerical data*
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult

Grant support

The study was funded by the Danish Working Environment Research Fund (grant no. 43-2010-03) ( JFT and SM received the funding. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.