SWEDEN: Women are more exposed to work-related diseases than men

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The government has asked the Swedish Office for the Work Environment (Arbetsmiljöverket) to develop measures to prevent women from being excluded from the labour market due to work-related diseases.

Women are significantly more often on sick leave than men, and a larger number of women than men take early retirement for health reasons.

Oxford Research was therefore assigned responsibility for two research projects: one on the risk of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) in men and women, and the other on the issue of gender and work organization.

The researchers noted that men and women often perform different tasks, even though they have the same jobs. In general, women tend to perform more repetitive tasks, which increases the risk of microtraumatisms. Moreover, the tools, protection equipment and work stations are often ill-adapted for women. So women are more often victims of shoulder and arm injuries; on the other hand, lower back pains affect women and men equally. Women are also more often victims of psychosocial disorders, especially in healthcare jobs.

The authors also highlighted the fact that research in the area of workplace health from a gender viewpoint is fairly limited. Another part of the project involved finding out how employers approached the issue of gender and what were their approaches to prevent musculoskeletal disorders in sectors where they occur frequently. The results of the telephone interviews carried out showed that a lack of understanding and traditions were the main challenges to be faced.

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