Prevalence of musculoskeletal symptoms in relation to gender, age, and occupational/industrial group

Baiduri Widanarko, Stephen Legg, Mark Stevenson, Jason Devereux, Amanda Eng, Andrea t. Mannetje, Soo Cheng, Jeroen Douwes, Lis Ellison-Loschmann, Dave McLean, Neil Pearce

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

126 Citations (Scopus)


Although musculoskeletal symptoms (MSS) are common worldwide, little is known about its prevalence amongst the working population in relation to gender, age, and occupational/industrial group. This paper describes the prevalence of MSS in a sample of 3003 men and women aged 20-64 randomly selected from the New Zealand Electoral Roll. MSS experienced during the previous 12 months in 10 body regions was assessed in telephone interviews using a modified version of the Nordic Musculoskeletal Questionnaire (NMQ). MSS prevalence was 92% (for any body region). The highest prevalence was for low back (54%), neck (43%), and shoulders (42%). Females reported a statistically significantly higher prevalence of MSS in the neck, shoulders, wrist/hands, upper back and hips/thighs/buttocks regions compared to males while males reported more symptoms of the elbows, low back and knees. There were no statistically significant differences in prevalence among age groups. In general, participants with heavy physical workloads had significantly higher prevalence of symptoms in most body regions than those with light physical workloads although women with light physical workloads reported more neck symptoms. The study indicates that the New Zealand working population has a high prevalence of MSS and that exposure in the workplace plays a role. Relevance to industry: The findings of this study imply that efforts to reduce MSS in the workplace should focus on females and employees with high physical workloads.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)561-572
Number of pages12
JournalInternational Journal of Industrial Ergonomics
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2011


  • Back pain
  • Blue-collar worker
  • Musculoskeletal disorders
  • Nordic musculoskeletal questionnaire
  • Workforce


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