Academic journal article Iranian Journal of Public Health

Examining the Relationship between Psychosocial Work Factors and Musculoskeletal Discomfort among Computer Users in Malaysia

Academic journal article Iranian Journal of Public Health

Examining the Relationship between Psychosocial Work Factors and Musculoskeletal Discomfort among Computer Users in Malaysia

Article excerpt


Background: With computers rapidly carving a niche in virtually every nook and crevice of today's fast-paced society, musculoskeletal disorders are becoming more prevalent among computer users, which comprise a wide spectrum of the Malaysian population, including office workers. While extant literature depicts extensive research on musculoskeletal disorders in general, the five dimensions of psychosocial work factors (job demands, job contentment, job control, computer- related problems and social interaction) attributed to work-related musculoskeletal disorders have been neglected. This study examines the aforementioned elements in detail, pertaining to their relationship with musculoskeletal disorders, focusing in particular, on 120 office workers at Malaysian public sector organizations, whose jobs require intensive computer usage.

Methods: Research was conducted between March and July 2009 in public service organizations in Malaysia .This study was conducted via a survey utilizing self-complete questionnaires and diary. The relationship between psychosocial work factors and musculoskeletal discomfort was ascertained through regression analyses, which revealed that some factors were more important than others were.

Results: The results indicate a significant relationship among psychosocial work factors and musculoskeletal discomfort among computer users. Several of these factors such as job control, computer-related problem and social interaction of psychosocial work factors are found to be more important than others in musculoskeletal discomfort.

Conclusion: With computer usage on the rise among users, the prevalence of musculoskeletal discomfort could lead to unnecessary disabilities, hence, the vital need for greater attention to be given on this aspect in the work place, to alleviate to some extent, potential problems in future.

Keywords: Malaysia, Musculoskeletal discomfort, Psychosocial work factors, Office worker


The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), Malaysia, states that 61.4% of the nation's workforce use computers at work (1), a trend induced by the increasing use of advanced technology in the workplace. Numerous research studies have indicated that computer users are prone to experiencing musculoskeletal discomfort (2-9), thereby raising concern for the health and well-being of office workers. In Malaysia, the Social Security Organization (SOCSO) caps the number of cases involving injuries which are musculoskeletal in nature, at an alarming rate of 10,000 per year, which certainly affects a very large group of workers in the country.

While the World Health Organization (WHO) characterizes "work-related" disorders as multifarious to indicate that various risk factors like physique, work organization, psychosocial and sociological risks play a significant role in contributing to such disorders (10), it also provides several theoretical reasons and empirical evidence suggesting a link between psychosocial work factors, i.e. job demand, job control, job contentment, etc., and musculoskeletal disorders not only among workers in general (11-13) and among office worker and computer users (9, 14). However, contradictory evidences have been put forward by other researchers. Some studies claim that the relationship between psychosocial work factors and musculoskeletal discomfort is inconclusive and the role of psychosocial work factors in the development of symptom of musculoskeletal disorders is not clearly understood and need more investigation (15, 16).

In recent years, through a consistent and extensive string of investigations conducted mainly in the U.S.A and Europe, it emerged that psychosocial work factors do not only represent a problem of well-being in itself, but are also related to diverse chronic health conditions including mental health disorders like burnout and depression, and real physical ailments such as cardiovascular disease and hypertension (17, 18). …

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