Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Work Is 'Cure As Well As Cause' Of Major Workplace Illnesses, UK

New report on MSD ...

"'Musculoskeletal disorders' (MSDs) - an umbrella term that covers over 200 different ailments including arthritis, back pain and damage to joints, muscles and tendons - affect twice as many people as 'stress', account for up to a third of all GP consultations, cause 9.5 million lost working days, and cost society £7.4bn a year*.

These are the main findings of a new report from The Work Foundation into the economic and social impact of MSDs - by far the most prevalent cause of work-related illness in the UK.

The report argues that early intervention and an emphasis on keeping sufferers in work wherever possible are likely to boost national productivity and help reduce the 2.6 million people claiming Incapacity Benefit. 'There is overwhelming evidence that worklessness is, itself, bad for health,' the report says.

The government needs to urgently rethink how health agencies co-ordinate treatment of MSDs, offer greater support to small businesses, and give a higher priority to understanding the labour market impact of MSDs as part of its Work, Health and Wellbeing Strategy, the report recommends.

MSDs affect all kinds of industries and occupations - in particular health and social care, the construction and building trades, transport and machine drivers, process plant and machine operatives, and caring personal service occupations. However, people affected by an MSD are also likely to have mental health problems as well. The chances of a swift return to work after an MSD-related absence is increased if people have positive mental health and support from employers and family.

Michelle Mahdon, senior researcher at The Work Foundation, said: 'Stress hogs headlines, but in terms of people affected, MSDs are the bigger problem, affecting more than a million people a year - and, of course, their families.

'Work can be both cause and cure. It may cause or aggravate symptoms of MSDs, but evidence is amassing that with the right support arrangements work can also be part of the recovery by contributing to a person's self-esteem and sense of being productive. What urgently needs to change is the attitude of many GPs and employers that an MSD sufferer must be 100 per cent well before any return to work can be contemplated. Too many see only incapacity rather than capacity.'

The onset of an MSD may harm a person's work performance by affecting stamina, concentration, mood, mobility and agility.

However, the report urges GPs and employers to look beyond immediate physical symptoms in their management of MSDs. The 'biopsychosocial model' of health - which emphasises the interplay between biological (eg. disease, strain, joint damage), psychological (eg. disposition, anxiety) and social (eg. work demands, family support) factors - represents a 'helpful' way of assessing causes and planning treatment and rehabilitation."    (Continued via Medical News Today)    [Ergonomics Resources]

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