Discomfort glare and psychological stress during computer work: subjective responses and associations between neck pain and trapezius muscle blood flow

  • Randi Mork
  • Helle K. Falkenberg
  • Knut Inge Fostervold
  • Hanne-Mari Schiøtz ThorudEmail author
Original Article



Exposure to additional environmental stress during computer work, such as visual and psychological demands, is associated with increased eye and neck discomfort, altered moods, and reduced well-being. The aim of this study is to elucidate further how subjective responses in healthy, young females with normal binocular vision are affected by glare and psychological stress during computer work, and to investigate possible associations between trapezius muscle blood flow and neck pain development.


43 females participated in a laboratory experiment with a within-subject design. Four 10-min computer work conditions with exposure to different stressors were performed at an ergonomically optimal workstation, under the following series of conditions: no additional stress, visual stress (induced as direct glare from a large glare source), psychological stress, and combined visual and psychological stress. Before and immediately after each computer work condition, questionnaires regarding different visual and eye symptoms, neck and shoulder symptoms, positive and negative state moods, perceived task difficulty, and perceived ambient lighting were completed. Associations between neck pain and trapezius muscle blood flow were also investigated.


Exposure to direct glare induced greater development of visual/eye symptoms and discomfort, while psychological stress exposure made participants feel more negative and stressed. The perception of work lighting during glare exposure was closely related to perceived stress, and associations between visual discomfort and eyestrain, and neck pain were observed in all conditions. Furthermore, participants with high trapezius muscle blood flow overall reported more neck pain, independent of exposure.


Exposure to visual and psychological stresses during computer work affects the development of symptoms and negative moods in healthy, young females with normal binocular vision, but in different ways. The results also demonstrate the complex interactions involved in symptom development and lighting appraisal during computer work. When optimizing computer workstations, the complexity of the field must be taken into account, and several factors, including visual conditions, must be considered carefully.


Glare Stress Computer work Vision Eyestrain Neck pain Mood 



The study was funded by the Norwegian ExtraFoundation for Health and Rehabilitation/Spine Association (Grant no. 2011/2/0036), Norway. The funding bodies had no impact on the study; the design, data collection, analysis and presentation of the results.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

The study protocol was approved by the Regional Committee for Medical and Health Research Ethics, Norway (2013/610), and followed the tenets of the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed consent

All participants received verbal and written information about the study, and written informed consent was obtained from all participants.


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Copyright information

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Public Health ScienceNorwegian University of Life SciencesÅsNorway
  2. 2.Department of Optometry, Radiography and Lighting Design, National Centre for Optics, Vision and Eye CareUniversity of South-Eastern NorwayKongsbergNorway
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyUniversity of OsloOsloNorway

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