02. tbl. 105. árg. 2019

The association of musculoskeletal symptoms with teenage work in Iceland

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Introduction: Musculoskeletal symptoms are common in adolescence, and may predispose a person to more occurrences in adulthood. Musculoskeletal problems have increased in the adult work force in recent years, becoming one of the most common causes of workers' disability, particularly among women. However, there is a lack of research on the association between musculoskeletal symptoms and teenage work. The aim of this research is to examine the association between four types of musculoskeletal symptoms (aches in joints and/or muscles, aches in the neck or shoulders, backache, and myalgia) and the level of term-time work among Icelandic teenagers, by gender, age, and educational status of the parents.

Material and methods: A survey was carried out in the first half of 2018 amongst 2800 teenagers, aged 13-19, randomly selected from the Registers Iceland. The response rate was 48.6%. The young people were asked how often they had experienced musculoskeletal symptoms in the last 12 months, and then were divided into three groups according to their level of term-time work: non-workers; moderate workers (≤ 12 h/w and/or in irregular work); and intensive workers (> 12) h/w and in regular work). A Chi-square test was used to test statistical significance: 95% confidence interval (CI).

The results show that intensive term-time workers are more prone to suffer from all four types of musculoskeletal symptoms than non-workers. The association persists for backache independent of demographic factors, and for all measured musculoskeletal symptoms among girls.

Conclusion is that the working conditions of Icelandic teenagers need to be improved so that they do not give rise to musculoskeletal symptoms. In particular, the working conditions of young females need to be examined, as well as the conditions that lead to occupational backache.

Table I The four types of musculoskeletal symptoms measured in the study are common among Icelandic teenagers, as Table I illustrates. Aches in joints and/or muscles are the most common symptom, with 44.0% reporting that they had sometimes or often suffered such pain in the last 12 months. Aches in the neck or shoulders are the least common (34.4%). A significant association appears between the level of work and all four types of musculoskeletal symptoms. In general, intensive term-time workers are more likely to suffer musculoskeletal symptoms than non-workers. The difference is especially prominent for backache: less than a third of the non-workers report sometimes or often suffering such pain, 42.7% of the moderate workers, but more than half of the intensive term-time workers.

Table II   reveals important gender differences in the association between the measured musculoskeletal symptoms and level of work. The association persists for all four symptoms among the girls, but only for backache among the boys. In other words, intensive term-time work affects the musculoskeletal system of young females more than that of young males.

Table III   shows that when examined by age, the association between level of work and musculoskeletal symptoms disappears for aches in joints and/or muscles, and for aches in neck or shoulders. However, the association with backache persist in the older two age-groups, and with myalgia in the younger two age-groups.

Table IV When examined by parental educational status (PES), the association between the musculoskeletal symptoms and level of work disappear in all three parental groups concerning aches in joints and/or muscles, as Table IV illustrates. However, a significant association between level of work and backache persists in all three parental groups, and between the level of work and aches in neck or shoulders, as well as myalgia, in the middle group of parental education.

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