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The prevalence of musculoskeletal symptoms in the construction industry: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Abstract

Purpose

Although individual studies have reported high prevalence of musculoskeletal symptoms (MSS) among construction workers, no systematic review has summarized their prevalence rates. Accordingly, this systematic review/meta-analysis aimed to synthesize MSS prevalence in different construction trades, gender and age groups, which may help develop specific ergonomic interventions.

Methods

Nine databases were searched for articles related to the research objective. Two reviewers independently screened citations, extracted information and conducted quality assessment of the included studies. Meta-analyses were conducted on clinical and statistical homogenous data.

Results

Thirty-five out of 1130 potential citations were included reporting diverse types of period prevalence and case definitions. Only the 1-year prevalence rates of MSS (defined as at least one episode of pain/MSS in the last year) at nine anatomical regions had sufficient homogeneous data for meta-analysis. Specifically, the 1-year prevalence of MSS was 51.1% for lower back, 37.2% for knee, 32.4% for shoulder, 30.4% for wrist, 24.4% for neck, 24.0% for ankle/foot, 20.3% for elbow, 19.8% for upper back, and 15.1% for hip/thigh. Female workers demonstrated a higher prevalence of MSS while there was insufficient information on the prevalence of trade-specific or age-related MSS. The quality assessments revealed that many included studies estimated prevalence solely based on self-reported data, and did not report non-respondents’ characteristics.

Conclusions

Lumbar, knee, shoulder, and wrist MSS are the most common symptoms among construction workers. Future studies should standardize the reporting of period prevalence of MSS in different construction trades to allow meta-analyses and to develop relevant MSS prevention program.

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Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank Dr. Liliana Lapierre for assisting the screening of a Spanish article, Mr. Peyman Azad for translating and extracting relevant information from a Persian article, and Dr. Martha Funabashi for screening a Portuguese article.

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Correspondence to Arnold Y. L. Wong.

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Umer, W., Antwi-Afari, M.F., Li, H. et al. The prevalence of musculoskeletal symptoms in the construction industry: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Int Arch Occup Environ Health 91, 125–144 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00420-017-1273-4

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Keywords

  • Work-related health
  • Musculoskeletal symptoms
  • Construction
  • Epidemiology
  • Prevalence
  • Systematic review