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Computer use neck and upper extremity symptoms, eye strain and headache among female and male upper secondary school students

Author(s): Palm P, Risberg EH, Mortimer M, Palmerud G, Toomingas A, et al.


Objectives Computer use, neck and upper-extremity symptoms, headache, and eyestrain were studied in upper secondary school students.

Methods A questionnaire was completed by 1575 female and 1251 male students. Associations between computer use and health problems were analyzed by calculating the prevalence ratios for the health variables, considering computer use for >14–56 or >56 hours/week as compared with ≤14 hours/week (reference). Health problems were defined as aches or pain or other trouble at least three days in the preceding month.

Results Computer use (median) was reported to be 31 hours/week by the male students and 19 hours/week by the females. Most computer use (about 90%) took place outside school (eg, for entertainment). Headache was reported by 51% and 24%, and neck or shoulder symptoms by 31% and 15%, of the females and males, respectively. More than 50% of the females with health complaints indicated that their problems had disturbed their sleep, and they used painkillers to handle them. Between 10% and 43% experienced their health complaints as being related to computer use. For those using computers >56 hours/week, the prevalence ratios were significantly increased for neck or shoulder symptoms among both the females and the males, and for eyestrain and forearm symptoms among the females. Exposure–response relationships were indicated for the aforementioned associations. Approximately two-thirds of the students reported that they had not received any information in school about appropriate workplace layout and techniques for computer work.

Conclusions Despite their young age, the students were not protected from computer-related health complaints. Therefore, providing adolescents with information about proper computer ergonomics may help prevent such health problems.

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