The European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) has published a new report on work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) in Europe, including what they cost, their prevalence and the types of workers affected.

The new report examines MSDs in the European workforce, society and economy, noting the following.

  • Roughly three out of every five workers in the EU report MSD complaints, with the most common types of MSDs reported by workers being backache and muscular pains in the upper limbs, while muscular pains in the lower limbs are reported less often.

  • Of all workers in the EU with a work-related health problem, 60% identify MSDs as their most serious issue.

  • One out of five people in the EU suffered from a chronic back or neck disorder in the past year.

  • The proportion of workers in the EU reporting MSD complaints decreased slightly between 2010 and 2015.

  • The prevalence of self-reported MSDs shows significant differences between occupations. For example, approximately 69% of agricultural, forestry and fishery workers report having one or more MSDs, whereas for professionals this is the case for 52% of workers.

  • The prevalence rates of MSDs are higher for female workers than for male workers and this applies to all types of MSDs.

  • The likelihood of reporting MSDs increases significantly with age.

Besides their negative effects on workers themselves, MSDs lead to high costs to businesses and society as a whole. In Germany for example, musculoskeletal and connective tissue disorders accounted for €17.2 billion of production loss in 2016 and €30.4 billion in loss of labour productivity, representing 0.5% and 1% of Germany’s gross domestic product, respectively.

Last reviewed 25 November 2019