Psychosocial Factors in the Prevention of Work-related Musculoskeletal Disorders


Work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) tend to be associated with physical risk factors, such as heavy loads or repetitive movements; however, psychosocial factors can play a significant role. They not only contribute to the risk of developing or exacerbating MSDs but can also act as a barrier to returning to work.


This information sheet, issued by the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA), identifies psychosocial factors linked to MSDs, such as excessive workload and poor social support, and explains the effect these stressors have on our physiology. It shows that the key to minimising their effects is a holistic, participatory approach to workplace risk assessment that considers both physical and psychosocial factors together.

Key points include the following:

  • Combined with physical risk factors, psychosocial factors can cause work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) and contribute to the persistence of existing (chronic) MSDs.

  • Psychosocial factors can act as a barrier to returning to work for those absent due to an MSD.

  • Having an MSD can have an adverse effect on psychological health and well-being.

  • Addressing the risks associated with psychosocial factors should be part of a holistic approach to assessing workplace risks and preventing MSDs.

European Agency for Safety and Health at Work August 2022



Psychosocial Factors in the Prevention of Work-related Musculoskeletal Disorders
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