A new study suggests that Europe could take a long stride in improving its economy by paying more attention to workplace musculoskeletal disorders (WMSDs). It revealed that 100 million individuals suffer from work-related chronic musculoskeletal pain, with as many as 40 percent indicating that they have had to quit their jobs due to their conditions. The researchers estimated that these factors represent as much as 2 percent of the European Union’s annual gross domestic product — an estimated $400 billion. WMSDs and their impact can be reduced, they say, and effective intervention lessens the financial burden and improves employees’ performance.
The study was conducted by The Work Foundation, an independent authority on work that describes itself as aiming “to improve the quality of working life and the effectiveness of organizations by equipping leaders, policymakers and opinion-formers with evidence, advice, new thinking and networks.”
Titled, “Fit For Work? Musculoskeletal Disorders in the European Workforce,” the study warns those policy makers and others that having a significant proportion of Europe’s working age population either temporarily or permanently unable to work through ill-health – even in a favorable economic climate – “can reduce the aggregate level of labor productivity in an economy and damage the competitiveness and effectiveness of private and public sector organisations.”
The figures cited in the study should help persuade the policymakers to heed the warning. Over 44 million (one in six) members of the European Union (EU) workforce now have a long-standing health problem or disability that affects their ability to work, and MSDs – conditions affecting bones, joints and connective tissue – account for a higher proportion of sickness absence from work than any other health condition: some 40 million workers in Europe are affected by MSDs attributable to their work, according to the study.
The study points out that if the negative effects of MSDs on both quality of life and work disability are to be minimized then early diagnosis and treatment can often be critical. “Work can be both a cause, or aggravator, and a cure,” it asserts. “In all cases there is clear evidence that well-designed work environments and flexible working arrangements can support job retention, and phased return to work and that work – especially if it is good work – can be good for health, well-being and recovery.”
Source: The Work Foundation-UK