The study examined the relation between daily workhours and the occurrence of neck-shoulder or back pain in physically demanding care work.
Unpublished data were obtained from three intervention projects in care institutions. The projects had been conducted independently in Oslo (46 participants, 175 referents before and 158 referents after the intervention), Helsingborg (60 participants, 89 referents) and Stockholm (41 participants, 22 referents) between 1995 and 1998. The intervention was a reduction of daily workhours from > or = 7 to 6 hours (or 30 hours weekly). Full-time salary was retained, and extra personnel were employed to compensate for the reduction in workhours. Data were collected by self-administered questionnaires before and during the intervention periods, lasting from 12 to 22 months.
The prevalence of neck-shoulder pain decreased from 40.9% to 25.6% in Oslo and from 57.1% to 39.1% in Helsingborg after 1.5 years with a 6-hour workday; for Stockholm the decrease was from 81.6% to 68.3% after 1 year. No decrease was observed in the reference groups. The prevalence of back pain did not show the same consistent pattern.
The shortening of regular workdays from > or = 7 hours to 6 hours may considerably reduce the prevalence of neck-shoulder pain among persons with physically demanding care work. The potential health benefits should encourage intervention studies also in other occupations with increased risk of work-related musculoskeletal disorders.
Comment In: Scand J Work Environ Health. 2003 Dec;29(6):488; author reply 48914712857