Job satisfaction, upper extremity pain intensity and absenteeism in work-related musculoskeletal disorders: an investigation using path analysis


Smith J, Cole D, Ibrahim S, The Worksite Upper Extremity Research Group


Objective: Weak cross-sectional associations between poor job satisfaction and WMSD have not been supported by longitudinal studies, and other evidence suggests a reciprocal relationship between poor job satisfaction and unresolved symptoms and absence. The objective of this study was to investigate the hypothesized relationships between exogenous psychosocial and physical work-related variables and job satisfaction, RSI pain intensity, and lost days.

Methods: Using cross-sectional data collected from office staff of a large metropolitan newspaper (N=743), a path model relating job satisfaction, WMSD pain intensity, and lost days was tested. We specifically tested whether lower job satisfaction leads to higher pain intensity and increased absenteeism. Psychosocial, physical, and job task variables were considered as risk factors for job satisfaction and / or pain intensity. Absenteeism was hypothesized to be predicted by lower job satisfaction and higher pain intensity.

Results: Neither path from job satisfaction to pain intensity nor absenteeism was found to be significant. Worker empowerment and job control had significant direct effects on both job satisfaction and pain intensity. Higher job satisfaction was also associated with higher social support and lower job insecurity, and higher pain intensity was also associated with higher deadline pressure, higher psychological demands, and longer time spent keyboarding. Increased number of lost days was associated with higher pain intensity, higher job control, and lower job insecurity.

Conclusion: Poor job satisfaction does not appear to lead to higher WMSD pain intensity, nor does job satisfaction appear to be related to pain-related absenteeism.


The objective of this study was to investigate possible relationships between workers’ sense of job satisfaction and certain psychosocial and physical work-related variables.

The researchers were especially interested in learning whether or not workers with a work-related musculoskeletal disorder (MSD) who were less satisfied with their jobs experienced more intense pain and took more time off as a result of their symptoms.

Researchers looked at data from 743 workers employed in the offices of a large metropolitan newspaper. The workers completed a variety of surveys, including questions about job satisfaction, whether they felt a sense of control and empowerment at work, whether they experienced pain in any or all of four body areas (the neck, shoulder, elbow/forearm, and wrist/hand) and how many work days had been lost in the past year due to this condition. They were also asked to estimate the number of hours per day they spent typing at a keyboard on a typical shift. Potential physical risk from poorly set-up workstations was measured by asking workers about the placement of their keyboard, monitor, and mouse.

Specifically, the researchers were testing the theory that job satisfaction is inversely associated with workers’ reports about pain intensity – i.e. that as job satisfaction drops, pain intensity increases. They were also looking at whether lack of job satisfaction and more intense physical symptoms led to more absenteeism (days off work).

After analyzing their data, the researchers concluded that, among workers who reported pain in the four body areas, their degree of job satisfaction had no significant effects on pain intensity. Nor did they find a significant link between job satisfaction and days off work due to pain.

But workers who felt a sense of control over their jobs did express greater job satisfaction and lower pain intensity. Greater pain intensity was also linked to workplace variables such as deadline pressures, greater psychological demands, and more time spent keyboarding. Increased number of lost days was associated with higher pain intensity, higher job control, and lower job insecurity.