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University of Gothenburg

Secular trends in human physical capacities of the working population and some ergonomic implications

Review paper. Work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MusculoSkeletal Disorders: MSD) are still a widespread problem despite extensive ergonomic intervention research and corresponding measures at many workplaces. One of the possible causes frequently discussed is a presumed general reduction in physical "fitness" in the general population during the last half-century. MSD could then be due to insufficient physical capacity even when the physical requirements seem acceptable.

In the scientific literature, it is often assumed that the physical "fitness" of the working population changes over time. Many studies report deterioration, but some also report increases or no changes at all. In addition, the conclusions are often based on mean values ​​of populations without considering other potential independent factors. This makes applications of results in working life more difficult.

The purpose of the present literature study is to investigate whether there are systematic changes in health-related physical “fitness” and at the same time consider the significance of factors such as gender, occupation, leisure time activities, social class and geographical region. This type of information could become an important part of ergonomic intervention programs in some specific professions.

The review is carried out in collaboration with Dr. Kurt Jørgensen, Department of Nutrition and Exercise Sciences at the University of Copenhagen.



Jørgensen K and Winkel J.



A manuscript will be submitted at an international peer-reviewed scientific journal ultimo 2021st


Jörgen Winkel