From The Ergoweb® Learning Center

Effect of Downsizing on MSD Rates

A new study published in the December 2001 edition of the journal ‘Occupational and Environmental Medicine’ looks at how company downsizing affects musculoskeletal disorder rates among remaining employees.

The study, titled “Organisational downsizing and musculoskeletal problems in employees: a prospective study”, was jointly carried out by the University of Helsinki, Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, University College London Medical School, and the Kensington and Chelsea and Westminster Health Authority.

The objective of the study was to evaluate any association between organizational downsizing and subsequent musculoskeletal problems in employees while looking at both psychosocial and behavioral factors. 764 municipal employees participated in the study which ran from 1990-1995.

While many other studies have pointed to increased stress and more psychosocial issues involved in downsizing, this study found that employees remaining after a company downsizing experienced more physical job demands which led to an increased risk for developing musculoskeletal disorders.

It is not clear whether these same trends translate to other countries and cultures. For example, when economic factors lead to broad downsizing in countries with fewer government mandated labor protections, some suggest that MSDs may go unreported for fear of losing a job.

The journal of ‘Occupational and Environmental Medicine’ can be found online at