New research – Musculoskeletal disorders: what about our ageing workforce?

This week we are happy to present a guest blogger, Dr Glykeria Skamagki from England. She is a lecturer and a researcher at University of Birmingham. We are so pleased that she has been staying in Linköping, Sweden, for a month as a guest researcher at our department of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Linköping university hospital. In this blogpost you can read about her latest research towards the management of chronic musculoskeletal disorders at the workplace.

Photo: Dr Glykeria Skamagki, researcher and physiotherapist from from England.

Management of chronic musculoskeletal disorders at the workplace has become one of the leading themes for research and development worldwide. Although we are now more aware about long-term conditions and the challenges towards the workforce, still, chronic musculoskeletal disorders (CMSDs) are one of the major health issues affecting European workplaces.

Of course, we need to remember, that the workforce has become remarkably diverse due to the integration of older employees, migrants and the substantial number of females who entered the labour force. Therefore, as an early-career researcher and a physiotherapist it was very important for me to explore the ways older employees with CMSDs are supported to sustain employability.

Photo: Shutterstock

Key findings for supporting the older employee with CMSDs

It is not possible to discuss all findings in this blog but the analysis after interviewing and surveying older employees with CMSDs in the UK was very promising and explained behaviours and challenges. Some of the key finding indicated that:

  • Older employees engage in leaveism as they would rather take annual leave to continue working at home when feeling unwell and avoid being judged.
  • Social support and especially empathy encourages disclosure and the planning of management strategies.
  • Discrepancies exist between how employers, managers, and supervisors interpret and implement existing employment policies and strategies
  • The involvement of healthcare professionals is crucial in supporting adjustment latitude, translating best evidence into practice.
Photo: Shutterstock

Interestingly, older employees also expanded on the impact of retirement changes and specifically exposed how these changes called for a gender perspective, for example women were affected due to caring responsibilities, lower income and multimorbidity.

Amongst other results a number of recommendations derived for employers, managers and employees were suggested to highlight workplace strategy options and enhance the management of chronic musculoskeletal disorders.  Booklets with these recommendations and research articles will be shortly published and disseminated on academic journals and media so watch out this space!

International collaboration and future steps

My visit here at the department of Occupational and Environmental Medicine has been an excellent opportunity to be creative, connect with established researchers here and think about new projects. This would not be feasible of course without the support from Dr Charlotte Wåhlin and Dr Anneli Peolsson and her team.  Reflecting in the past weeks and the work that has been done I feel that new collaborations are in place between the University of Birmingham and the Region Östergötland and I am looking forward to exploring new exciting projects and maybe visiting again.

Charlotte Wåhlin & Glykeria Skamagki
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