Musculoskeletal disorders

Prevalence of musculoskeletal disorders


Results from the latest survey of self-reported work-related illness (SWI05/06) indicate that in 2005/06 an estimated prevalence of 1,020,000 people in Great Britain suffered from a musculoskeletal disorder which, in their opinion, was caused or made worse by their current or past work. This equates to 2400 per 100 000 people (2.4%) who have ever worked in Great Britain.

For people who worked in the previous 12 months in England and Wales, comparisons between the seven SWI surveys based on a restricted coverage indicate that the estimated prevalence rates in 2005/06 and 2004/05 were similar, but they were lower than in 2003/04 and 2001/02, similar to the rate in 1998/99 and lower than in 1995 and 1990. All differences were statistically significant.

SWI05/06 estimated that around 19% of sufferers, 190 000 people ever employed, first became aware of their work-related musculoskeletal disorder in the previous 12 months. In terms of people employed in the last 12 months, this equates to an estimated incidence rate of 580 per 100 000 (0.58%).

Each year thousands of new cases of musculoskeletal disorders require some level of specialist intervention. An estimated 5760 cases were seen for the first time in 2005 by rheumatologists and occupational physicians reporting to the MOSS (Musculoskeletal Occupational Surveillance Scheme) and OPRA (Occupational Physicians Reporting Activity) surveillance schemes. This was lower, and lower than over the preceding 5 year period, when around an estimated 8 000 cases were seen each year.

In 2004/5 there were 370 new cases assessed for disablement benefit due to a prescribed musculoskeletal disorder under the IIS (Industrial Injuries Scheme).

Occupations carrying above average prevalence rates according to SWI04/05 included health and social welfare associate professionals (sub-major group 32), skilled construction and building trades (sub-major group 53), transport and mobile machine drivers and operatives (sub-major group 82), process, plant and machine operatives (sub-major group 81) and caring personal service occupations (sub-major group 61) . Typists had the highest average annual incidence rate reported by rheumatologists to MOSS between 2002 and 2004. This was followed by those who work as metal plate workers, shipwrights and riveters, and road construction operatives.

According to SWI04/05, industries carrying the highest prevalence rates in 2004/05 included construction (section F) and health and social work (section N). Health and social work also carried an above average incidence rate in 2004/05. Amongst those industries with the highest annual incidence rates reported by rheumatologists to MOSS between 2002 and 2004 were: Manufacture of motor vehicles, trailers and semi-trailers; Mining and quarrying; and Manufacture of other transport.

SWI05/06 estimated that 9.5 million working days (full-day equivalent) were lost in 2005/06 through musculoskeletal disorders caused or made worse by work. On average, each person suffering took an estimated 17.3 days off work in that 12 month period. This equates to an annual loss of 0.41 days per worker.

The complete report, provided by HSE, can be viewed on H.S.E. – Musculoskeletal disorders