RR594 Social support and musculoskeletal disorders: Literature review and data analysis
This report examines the role of work-related social support as a risk factor for musculoskeletal disorders (MSD). A review of the literature is presented, and empirical data analyses reported.
- The literature review evaluates recent findings, and notes some methodological issues. Although some prospective studies report findings linking low social support to MSD outcomes, many inconsistencies are apparent in the results.
- Three data sets were analysed using descriptive and multi-variate methods:
- cross-sectional survey data (N=2906, oil industry);
- certificated MSD absence data covering a five-year period (N=531, civil servants);
- longitudinal survey data (N=195, onshore oil industry).
- The analyses demonstrated that high supervisor support was associated with lower rates of MSD problems, lower pain severity, and fewer MSD-related absences (after adjustment for prior absences).
- The findings for co-worker support were less clear; in two analyses, no overall relationship with MSD was found; in one analysis, high co-worker support was a risk factor for back pain. However, interactions of co-worker support with other factors revealed a more complex pattern of results.
- In the analysis of MSD sickness absence, high partner support was a significant risk factor for subsequent absence episodes, after adjustment for prior episodes, work-related social support, and control variables.
These results are considered in relation to existing literature findings in a final section of the report.
This report and the work it describes were funded by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Its contents, including any opinions and/or conclusions expressed, are those of the authors alone and do not necessarily reflect HSE policy.
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