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Year : 2005  |  Volume : 9  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 111-114

Occupational health problems and role of ergonomics in information technology professionals in national capital region

Department of Community Medicine, Lady Hardinge Medical College, New Delhi, India

Correspondence Address:
A K Sharma
Department of Community Medicine,Lady Hardinge Medical College,Shaheed Bhagat Singh Marg, New Delhi - 110 001
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

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A cross sectional study was done among 200 Information Technology (IT) professionals in the National Capital Region (NCR) to study the computer related health problems and role of ergonomic factors. The computer related morbidity was present in 93% of the study subjects. The visual problems were seen in 76% and musculoskeletal in 77.5% while 35% felt stressful symptoms. The study subjects having inadequate lighting and not using an antiglare had greater visual problem, i.e. 81.3 and 76.3%, respectively. Of the 152 subjects that had visual discomfort, 80.2% did not have the monitor at correct distance. This observation was found to be statistically significant (P<0.05). The musculoskeletal problems were also higher in the study subjects using inappropriate ergonomics. The study has brought forth a very high prevalence of computer related morbidity among IT professionals and it further concluded that all aspects of ergonomic variables appear to be acting in cohesion in relation to computer related heath.

Keywords: Computer related morbidity, IT professionals, Ergonomics

How to cite this article:
Suparna K, Sharma A K, Khandekar J. Occupational health problems and role of ergonomics in information technology professionals in national capital region. Indian J Occup Environ Med 2005;9:111-4

How to cite this URL:
Suparna K, Sharma A K, Khandekar J. Occupational health problems and role of ergonomics in information technology professionals in national capital region. Indian J Occup Environ Med [serial online] 2005 [cited 2023 Feb 7];9:111-4. Available from:

  Introduction Top

Computer, a hallmark of technological advancement has ushered in a new genre of occupational health problem, i.e. of computer related health problems. India being the forerunner in the cyber world the occupational health personals is slowly awakening to this group of modern occupational diseases, which are slowly taking its roots among the information technology (IT) professionals. These problems if ignored can prove debilitating and can cause crippling injuries forcing one to change one's profession.[1],[2] There is an urgent need to understand the dynamics of these problems and prevent it from assuming epidemic proportions. With young children being introduced to computers much early on in life, it is all the more important to be aware of the problems and follow necessary preventive steps to check the progression of computer related health problems. The bulk of literature available on this problem is in west with few studies done in the Indian setup. The present study was done in National Capital Region (NCR), Delhi to assess the magnitude of these occupational problems and role of ergonomics in computer related health problems.

  Materials and methods Top

The present study was done with an objective of studying computer related health problems and role of ergonomic factors, likely to be associated with computer related health problems.

The primary service providers in IT industry are grouped into: IT software industry, IT enabled service, Internet and e-commerce. There are approximately 916 IT providers registered with National Association of Software and Service Companies (NASSCOM) all over India, of which 202 IT providers are registered in NCR. The study design was cross sectional.

The sampling design used was stratified random sampling. Based on various studies in the west and taking into account time constraints the sample size of 200 was taken. The study subjects were drawn from software developers (NIIT) 82, Call centre (V-customer care) 54 and Data entry/processing (NIC) 64, to have an adequate representation from all sectors of IT industry.

The study period was one year from April 2002 to March 2003. The stratification was done on the basis of, number of working years on computers of the IT professionals.

The inclusion criteria for subjects to be considered for the study were they should be working in the current job for past 6 months. He/she should be working on the computers for at least 3 h/day or 15 h/week.

The study subjects were administered a pre designed pre tested semi structured questionnaire covering details like age, working hours, working environment, experiencing of any problem while working on computers and the type and kind of problems perceived. To assess the musculoskeletal problems a standardized Nordic Questionnaire[3] was administered. Depression was measured using Zung's self-rating depression scale and Hamilton depression rating scale.[4]

The working environment of each individual was assessed separately with respect to position of monitor, distance of monitor from the user, use of anti glare screen, type of chair, use of foot rests, position of elbow and legs, position of body, number of breaks, and manner of holding the mouse.[5]

The use of furniture specifically designed for computer use was taken as appropriate. In the present study sitting straight and leg at an angle with feet well supported, elbows and arms supported in neutral position while working, was taken as appropriate while any other position were considered as inappropriate. The position of monitor in level with the horizontal gaze of the subject was taken as appropriate. The light grip used for holding the mouse was considered as correct manner of holding the mouse.[1],[5] Statistical appraisal was done by univariate analysis using chi-square test.

  Results Top

In the present study, the age of the subject varied from 20 to 54 years with mean age of 29.86 years. The males outnumbered females in the ratio 7: 3. The age profile is similar to other Indian studies. Shah et al[6] reported mean age of 25.4 years in computer professionals. Sharan[7] had subjects with median age 27 years. While Choudhary et al[1] had subjects with mean age 296 years, the studies done in India had predominantly male workers unlike most studies in west where female workers outnumber male.

The average working hours per day on computer in call center and software development were 90.67 h and 8.30.81 h, respectively, as compared to 50.41 h in data entry/processing group.

The magnitude of computer related problems were as high as 93% in the present study [Table - 1]. These were visual problems in 76%; musculoskeletal problems in 77.5% and stress in 35% of study subjects. The females had more problems (96.7%) as compared to the males (91.3%). They experienced more visual and musculoskeletal problems while stress perceived was more by males. The difference was found to be statistically significant for musculoskeletal problems and stress at P < 0.05 and P < 0.02, respectively.

The highest morbidity (96.3%) was in software development group. The highest prevalence of visual and stress was also in software development group while musculoskeletal problems were highest in data entry workers [Table - 1].

In the present study 152 subjects had visual problems, of these, 82.9% were working for 1 h or more at a stretch [Table - 2]. Chakarpani et al[2] in Visual Display Terminal (VDT) users at Hyderabad found a significant correlation between duration of work without a break and frequency of symptom occurrence. WHO[8] also observed a significant positive correlation between duration of work without a break and the frequency of symptoms occurrence.

In the present study, subjective perception of an individual regarding illumination, and glare were considered to determine the adequacy or inadequacy of light and use of additional antiglare mechanism, i.e. either screen or glasses in addition to in-built mechanisms in the screen was considered as adequate. The review by Soo et al[9] for National Institute of Occupational Health and Safety (NIOSH) took four basic lighting factors viz quantity, contrast, illumination and glare, which increased visual complaints.

The study subjects having inadequate lighting and not using an antiglare had greater visual problem, i.e. 81.3 and 76.3%.

These observations were supported by findings of Hunting et al[10] that reported increase in subjective and objective symptoms of eye troubles with high luminance and inadequate contrast between screen and surrounding space. However Collins et al[11] found glare in users field was not significantly associated with ocular, visual or systemic symptoms.

There was not much difference in visual discomfort with display quality. The probable reason for which could be that only single aspect of display quality was considered not taking into account the micro aspects like resolution, colour, contrast, luminance, and font size.[9],[12],[13]

In the present study, distance of 45-60 cm from the screen was considered as appropriate and distances less or greater than the above range were termed inadequate. Of the 167 who did not have the monitor at correct distance i.e. 45-65 cm, 122 (80.3%) had visual problems. This observation was found to be statistically significant ( P < 0.05) [Table - 3].

Musculoskeletal problems were higher in the study subjects using inappropriate ergonomics. The observation was found to be statistically significant [Table - 4].

Ergonomics refers to a wide array of factors in terms of self and surrounding environment. Although an individual may be following correct ergonomic variable in one thing but at the same time he may be oblivious to other aspect, which could be contributing to the problem. WHO[8] manual on VDT also made a similar observation. The review by Soo et al[9] further adds that at times important components of workstations were not adjustable or the mechanisms were too cumbersome to operate. This becomes all the more important when several workers used same furniture. The discrepancies were then met at the cost of postural adjustments. Immobilization further adds to the problems. The role of inappropriate workstation is therefore, very important for causation of musculoskeletal problems.

  Conclusions Top

Based on the present study it was evident that very high morbidity attributed to computers has already taken roots in IT professionals and is a matter of great concern. This study has also focussed on ergonomic factors contributing to the occurrence of these problems. The study has also brought forth that all aspects of workstation appear to be acting in cohesion in relation to computer related heath problems.

There is an immediate need for the concerned agencies to collaborate and enforce suitable preventive measures. Almost all the subjects were not aware about the correct ergonomics and preventive aspects of these problems. There is a need for constant monitoring and periodic appraisal of health problems in IT professional to take appropriate remedial measures at the earliest.

  Acknowledgments Top

The present study is parts of M.D. thesis of Khera Suparna. A. K. Sharma and J. Khandekar are Supervisor and Co-supervisor, respectively.

  References Top

1.Choudhary SB, Sapur S, Deb PS. Awkward posture and Development of RSI (Repetitive Strain Injury) in Computer Professionals. Indian J Occup Environ Med 2002;6:10-2.  Back to cited text no. 1    
2.Rao KC, Chandu K, Vedachalam V. Hardships of Soft People- A Clinical Study of Ocular and Visual Discomfort in Video Display Terminal (VDT) Users. Indian J Occup Environ Med 1999;3:14-6.  Back to cited text no. 2    
3.Jonsson KB, Kilbom A, Vinterberg H, Biering-Sorenson F, Anderson G. Standardized Nordic Questionnaires for the Analysis of Musculoskeletal Symptoms. App Ergonomics 1987;18:233-7.  Back to cited text no. 3    
4.Hamilton Max: A Rating Scale For Depression. J Neurosurg Psychiatr 1960;23:56-61.  Back to cited text no. 4    
5.Lamba M. Ergonomics as applied to working on computers. Indian J Occup Environ Med 2001;5:171-6.  Back to cited text no. 5    
6.Shah PB, Reddy PS, Hegde SC. Stress: Occupational Health Disorder Amongst Computer Professionals. Indian J Occup Health 1999;71-3.  Back to cited text no. 6    
7.Sharan D. Current Research "Computer Related Injuries":  Back to cited text no. 7    
8.WHO offset publication 99:Visual Display Terminals and Workers Health; 1987. p. 1-157.  Back to cited text no. 8    
9.Soo-Yee Lim, Sauter SL, Schnorr TM. Occupational Health Aspects of Work with Video Display Terminals: Chapter 100 Environmental and Occupational Medicine. 3rd edn. edited by William N Rom Publishers Lippencott-Raven Philadelphia; 1998.  Back to cited text no. 9    
10.Hunting W, Th. Laubli, Grandjean E. Postural and visual loads at VDT workplaces; Constrained Postures. Ergonomics 1981;24:917-31.  Back to cited text no. 10    
11.Collins M, Brown B, Bowman K, Carkeet A. Workstation variables and visual discomfort associated with VDTs: App Ergonomics 1990;157-61.  Back to cited text no. 11    
12.Marriott IA, Stuchly MA. Health Aspects of Work with Visual Display Terminals. J Occupa Med 1986;29:833-48.  Back to cited text no. 12    
13.Samel, Jape MR. Editorial: Challenges Due to Emerging Health Hazards in "IT" Industry -Video Display Terminals and Health. Indian J Occup Health 2002;2-12.  Back to cited text no. 13    


[Table - 1], [Table - 2], [Table - 3], [Table - 4]

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