Musculoskeletal disorders affect twice as many people as stress

Employers have been urged to support employees with occupational health benefits to combat musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) which affect twice as many people as stress and account for 9.5m lost working days a year.

The Work Foundation’s Fit for Work: Musculoskeletal Disorders and Labour Market Participation report argues that early intervention and an emphasis on keeping sufferers in work as long as possible are likely to boost national productivity and reduce the 2.6m people claiming Incapacity Benefit.

The report found that MSDs affect twice as many people as stress, account for up to a third of all GP consultations and result in 9.5m lost working days.

Michelle Mahdon, senior at The Work Foundation, said: “Stress hogs headlines, but in terms of people affected, MSDs are the bigger problem, affecting more than a million people a year – and of course, their families.

“Work can be both cause and cure. It may cause or aggravate symptoms of MSDs, but evidence is amassing that with the right support arrangements work can also be part of the recovery by contributing to a person’s self-esteem and sense of being productive.”

Jean Lambert, London’s Green MEP who is a member of the Employment and Social Affairs Committee at the European Parliament , backed the report’s findings. She said: “We don’t take occupational therapy seriously enough. We have a shortage of trained professionals and many have to pay for their own training. If people are expected to work until later in life then we need to invest in wellbeing at work.”