Background: This study is a part of the interdisciplinary project The Office Illness Project in Northern Sweden, which was initiated with a questionnaire study in late 1988. Previously published results from the project have shown that facial skin symptoms reported among visual display terminal (VDT) workers are associated with a number of exogenous factors. This part of the project investigated the relation between the psychosocial work environment and facial skin complaints.
Methods: From an initial questionnaire study among 4943 office workers, 163 VDT workers were selected for a case referent study of facial skin symptoms. The data comprise a self-administered questionnaire filled out by 149 subjects and interviews with representatives of the organizations concerned.
Results: Psychosocial conditions, especially lack of social support from co-workers, were associated with an increased risk of reporting skin symptoms. Stratification by sex showed that the associations between some psychosocial factors and health differed between men and women. The results indicate that there might be an interaction between psychosocial factors and electric fields in the workplace which increases the risk of reporting skin symptoms.
Conclusions: This study supports the idea that the aetiological basis of facial skin symptoms among VDT-workers includes physical as well as psychosocial factors, and that the interaction between such factors might be significant in the understanding of skin complaints among VDT workers.