For hospital workers, poor work-life balance can cause physical pain

Work-life imbalance associated with neck, shoulder, and arm pain

Hospital employees who struggle to balance work and family are up to three times more likely to suffer musculoskeletal pain, according to a study in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine.

For the study, George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services and Harvard School of Public Health researchers surveyed about 2,000 hospital care providers in 105 units at two academic medical centers in Boston. They assessed work-life conflict using a five-item Work-Family Conflict Scale, and asked about musculoskeletal pain during the previous three months.

The researchers determined that employees who reported high levels of conflict between their work responsibilities and family obligations were twice as likely to report neck or shoulder pain in the last three months. Those workers were also three times more likely to report arm pain.

The study did not find a correlation between back pain and work-life imbalance.

The authors say that further research is required to confirm a direct correlation between work-family conflict and musculoskeletal pain, but that these preliminary findings should encourage hospitals to assess the working conditions of their employees.

Lead author and George Washington lecturer Seung-Sup Kim says, "Hospitals that adopt policies to reduce the juggling act might gain a host of benefits, including a more productive workforce, one that is not slowed down by chronic aches and pains" (Preidt, HealthDay, 10/4, United Press International, 9/29; George Washington University release, 9/27).

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