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Psychosocial work conditions, perceived stress, perceived muscular tension, and neck/shoulder symptoms among medical secretaries

Journal article
Authors Pernilla Larsman
Roland Kadefors
Leif Sandsjö
Published in International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health
Volume 86
Issue 1
Pages 57-63
ISSN 1432-1246
Publication year 2013
Published at Department of Sociology and Work Science
Department of Psychology
Pages 57-63
Language en
Keywords computer work, shoulder pain, neck pain, women, stress
Subject categories Occupational medicine, Applied Psychology


Purpose Unfavorable psychosocial working conditions are hypothesized to lead to perceived stress, which, in turn, can be related to an increased risk of development of neck/shoulder symptoms through increased and sustained muscle activation. The aim of the present study was to test this hypothesized process model among medical secretaries, a female-dominated profession characterized by a high amount of visual display unit use and a high prevalence of neck/shoulder symptoms. Methods In this cross-sectional study, a questionnaire survey was conducted among medical secretaries (n = 200). The proposed process model was tested using a path model framework. Results The results indicate that high work demands were related to high perceived stress, which in turn was related to a high perceived muscle tension and neck/shoulder symptoms. Low influence at work was not related to perceived stress, but was directly related to a high perceived muscle tension. Conclusions In general, these cross-sectional results lend tentative support for the hypothesis that adverse psychosocial work conditions (high work demands) may contribute to the development of neck/shoulder symptoms through the mechanism of stress-induced sustained muscular activation. This process model needs to be further tested in longitudinal studies.

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