Lifetime occupational physical activity and musculoskeletal aging in middle-aged men and women in denmark: retrospective cohort study protocol and methods

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BACKGROUND: Physical function is essential for performing most aspects of daily life and musculoskeletal aging leads to a decline in physical function. The onset and rate of this process vary and are influenced by environmental, genetic, and hormonal factors. Although everyone eventually experiences musculoskeletal aging, it is beneficial to study the factors that influence the aging process in order to prevent disability. The role of occupational physical activity in the musculoskeletal aging process is unclear. In the past, hard physical work was thought to strengthen the worker, but current studies in this field fail to find a training effect in jobs with a high level of occupational physical activity.

OBJECTIVE: The aim of this study is to examine the influence of lifetime occupational physical activity on physical function in midlife. The study follows the "occupational life-course perspective," emphasizing the importance of occupational exposures accumulated throughout life on the musculoskeletal aging process taking socioeconomic and lifestyle factors into consideration.

METHODS: This study is a retrospective cohort study including a cross-sectional measurement of physical function in 5000 middle-aged Danes. Data was obtained from the Copenhagen Aging and Midlife Biobank (CAMB) which is based on three existing Danish cohorts. Using questionnaire information about the five longest-held occupations, the job history was coded from the Danish version of the International Standard Classification of Occupations (D-ISCO 88) and a job exposure matrix containing information about occupational physical activity in Danish jobs was applied to the dataset. The primary outcomes are three tests of physical function: handgrip strength, balance, and chair rise. In the analyses, we will compare physical function in midlife according to accumulated exposure to high levels of occupational physical activity.

CONCLUSIONS: We have a unique opportunity to study the influence of work on early musculoskeletal aging taking other factors into account. In this study, the "healthy worker effect" is reduced due to inclusion of people from the working population and people who are already retired or have been excluded from the labor market. However, low participation in the physical tests can lead to selection bias.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJMIR Research Protocols
Issue number2
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 2012

ID: 40260932