Sitting uncomfortably at work is linked to mental health issues

Employees suffer from prolonged sitting at badly set-up workstations

Poorly equipped desks are not only linked to musculoskeletal disorders but also correlate with mental health problems, according to research published today (15 May 2014).

The research by Leeds Metropolitan University finds that more than 80% of employees suffer from ailments as a result of not sitting correctly while working at a computer, with one in five taking time off at an average of 14.5 days per year per sufferer.

Office specialist Fellowes commissioned the institution’s Faculty of Health and Social Sciences to consider the attitudes of employees towards health and wellbeing – 4,664 workers now spend a minimum of 6.5 hours a day at their desks.

Miranda Thew, senior lecturer in occupational science and occupational therapy at Leeds Metropolitan University, said: “The results of the study present strong evidence that link mental health and chronic pain, in that one can be the cause of the other and that chronic pain can often arise from musculoskeletal problems brought on by poor ergonomics.”

This study’s main findings are as follows:

  • long-term health and wellbeing are at risk with the average employee suffering from chronic conditions and mental-health problems from prolonged sitting at badly set-up workstations;
  • 18% of employees have suffered from depression in the past three years (either minor or serious) as a result of their ailments; and
  • more than half (53%) of sufferers say their personal lives have been affected including taking a toll on relationships (21%). Some 13% cannot go out and socialise as much as they used to as a reducing stress-relieving strategy, and where there is a long-term absence due to chronic pain and depression in combination, returning to work at all becomes unlikely.

Thew said: “Conditions arising from poorly adapted computer-based workstations range from sore muscles to chronic pain or carpal tunnel syndrome, repetitive strain injury, eye strain, headaches and chronic fatigue. Such conditions can lead on to reduced quality of life and therefore further reducing capacity to work.”

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