The Consequence of Combined Pain and Stress on Work Ability in Female Laboratory Technicians: A Cross-Sectional Study

Kenneth Jay Andersen, Maria Kristine Friborg, Gisela Sjøgaard, Markus Due Jakobsen, Emil Sundstrup, Mikkel Brandt, Lars Louis Andersen

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Musculoskeletal pain and stress-related disorders are leading causes of impaired work ability, sickness absences and disability pensions. However, knowledge about the combined detrimental effect of pain and stress on work ability is lacking. This study investigates the association between pain in the neck-shoulders, perceived stress, and work ability. In a cross-sectional survey at a large pharmaceutical company in Denmark 473 female laboratory technicians replied to questions about stress (Perceived Stress Scale), musculoskeletal pain intensity (scale 0-10) of the neck and shoulders, and work ability (Work Ability Index). General linear models tested the association between variables. In the multi-adjusted model, stress (p < 0.001) and pain (p < 0.001) had independent main effects on the work ability index score, and there was no significant stress by pain interaction (p = 0.32). Work ability decreased gradually with both increased stress and pain. Workers with low stress and low pain had the highest Work Ability Index score (44.6 (95% CI 43.9-45.3)) and workers with high stress and high pain had the lowest score (32.7 (95% CI 30.6-34.9)). This cross-sectional study indicates that increased stress and musculoskeletal pain are independently associated with lower work ability in female laboratory technicians.

Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number12
Pages (from-to)15834-15842
Publication statusPublished - 11. Dec 2015


  • Behavior
  • Biopsychosocial
  • Fear-avoidance
  • Learned helplessness
  • Pain stress relationship
  • Resources and demands
  • Social factors


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