Year : 2006 | Volume
: 31 | Issue : 1 | Page : 36--38
Computer related health problems among information technology professionals in Delhi
AK Sharma, S Khera, J Khandekar
Department of Community Medicine, Lady Hardinge Medical College, New Delhi., India
A K Sharma
Department of Community Medicine, Lady Hardinge Medical College, New Delhi.
|How to cite this article:|
Sharma A K, Khera S, Khandekar J. Computer related health problems among information technology professionals in Delhi.Indian J Community Med 2006;31:36-38
|How to cite this URL:|
Sharma A K, Khera S, Khandekar J. Computer related health problems among information technology professionals in Delhi. Indian J Community Med [serial online] 2006 [cited 2021 Mar 8 ];31:36-38
Available from: https://www.ijcm.org.in/text.asp?2006/31/1/36/54936
Computers have became an epitome of modern life, being used in every aspect of life from calculating grocery bills, telecommunications, banking operations, name any sphere and one will find computer. With use of Internet technology distances carry little meaning and information anywhere in the world is accessible just with a click of mouse. India has been in the forefront in cyber world with IT industry developing into a major service provider. It was estimated in the 1990's that 40-80 million Visual Display Terminals (VDTs) were there in the workplace. There are approximately six-computers/1000 population with an installation of 18 million Personal Computers (PCs) and their number increasing all the time  . This has also ushered in a new genre of occupational health problem i.e. of computer related health problems. India being the forerunner in the cyber world, there is an urgent need to understand the dynamics of these problems and prevent it from assuming epidemic proportions. The bulk of literature available on this problem is in west with few studies done in an Indian setup. The present study is aimed at exploring the magnitude and pattern of computer related health problems.
Material and Methods
The primary service providers in Information technology (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 National Capital Region (NCR). The study subjects were drawn from software developers (NIIT), Call center (V-customer care) and Data entry/ processing (NIC), to have an adequate representation from all sectors of IT industry.
The study design was cross sectional. The sampling design used was stratified sampling. The IT professionals working in different sectors were identified and representative sample was taken to complete the sample size. Based on various studies in the west and taking into account time constraints the sample size of 200 was taken. The study period was from April 2002 - March 2003. The inclusion criteria for subjects to be considered for the study were, firstly the subject should be working in the current job for past six months. Secondly, he/ she should be working on the computer for at least 3 hours/ day or 15 hours/week. From each group subjects were taken randomly. The investigator took prior permission from respective organizations for doing the study. Days and time were fixed as per the convenience of workers and investigator. The investigator could visit the groups twice a week and interviewed the individuals working in the company. The investigator went about each group for a period of approximately three months to interview as many professionals as possible.
The study subjects were interviewed separately in a room. They were explained the purpose of study and were assured about the confidentiality of the information shared. They were administered a pre designed pre tested semi structured questionnaire covering details like age, income, 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  was administered. Depression was measured using Zung's self-rating depression scale and Hamilton depression rating scale  , . The study subjects were examined for their visual acuity by using a Snellens visual acuity chart for distant vision; dryness of eyes was tested by Schirmir's test and carpel tunnel syndrome by doing Phalens and Tinels test. Besides these, examination of spine and general examination were also done. If the study subject complained of any problem or had computer related health problem on examination he/she was counseled on appropriate ergnomics, advised medical treatment or referred for a specialist treatment where required. Statistical appraisal was done by univariate analysis using Chi-Square test.
The present study included 200 IT professionals with varied job profiles viz. software developers (82), call center (54) and data entry/processing (64) as study population. The mean age of the study subjects was 29.8 ± 4.3 years with 53.5% of the subjects being in the age group 21-30 years. The males outnumbered females in the ratio of 7:3. Majority of males worked in software development (80.5%) or call center (77.8%) while 51.6% of the females were doing data entry/processing.
Majority (59.5%) of study subjects had formal training in computers having degree or diploma in computer applications. The mean duration of working on computers was 7.05 ± 1.98 years and was highest for data entry/processing (10.7 years, SD 1.39) and lowest for call center group (3.8 years, SD 0.33). The average working hours per day on computer in call center and software development were higher i.e. 9 ± 0.67 hours and 8.3 ± 0.81 hours respectively as compared to 5 ± 0.41 hours in data entry / processing group. The magnitude of computer related problems were as high as 93% in the present study.
The frequency of computer related problems in the study group were visual problems in 76%, musculoskeletal problems in 77.5% and stress in 35%. The problems were (comparable among) females (96.7%) and males (91.3%). Females experienced significantly (x 2 = 4.41, P = 0.04) more musculoskeletal problems, while stress perceived was significantly more (x 2 = 5.07 P = 0.02) by males. The extent and type of problems in IT professionals varied with their job profile. As many as 96.3% subjects in software development and 92.6% in call center had computer related problems as compared to 89.1% in data entry/processing group.
The visual problem and stress was significantly more common in subjects working in software development, while musculoskeletal problem was more prevalent among data entry/processing operators (x 2 =5.82, P=0.05; x 2 = 24.5, P = .000005 respectively). The latter group also felt stress less as compared to earlier groups [Table 1].
Regarding the occurrence of problems in terms of number of years spent working on computers; the study subjects had more or less similar prevalnce of visual problems, while the musculoskeletal problems had an increasing prevalence with number of years working on computers increasing. The stress was observed more in the initial years of work on computers. This observation was found to be statistically significant (x 2 =4.67, P 2 =4.15, P=0.04; x 2 = 16.41, P = .000005) in those subjects who were working 5 hours or more per day on computers [Table 3].
The common visual problems seen were redness (37%), burning and/or tiredness (31.5%), Headache (29.5%), pain in the eye (23.5%), itching (22.5%) and watering of eyes (19%). The refractive error was present in 23.5% of the subjects and 16.5% had dryness by Schirmir's test. The occasional occurrences of discomforts were more common than daily discomforts.
The common musculoskeletal symptoms were pain (55%) and stiffness (14.8%). The nerve involvement was suggested by numbness and tingling sensation in 12% and 9.5% of the subjects respectively. The common sites affected with musculoskeletal problem were neck (44%), low back (30.5%), wrist/hand (19%) and shoulders (12.5%). The problem of neck, low back and shoulders in last twelve months were present in large proportion of subjects, for more than thirty days. The shoulder problem was most debilitating causing reduction in Activities of Daily living (ADL) in 32% of subjects. Phalens test for Carpal tunnel syndrome was positive in 11.5% while Tinels test was positive in only 5%. Depression was present in 8% by Zungs self-rating scale and in 6% by Hamilton depression-scale and most of these hand minimal to mild depression.
In the present study as many as 93% of the subjects had one or more than one computer related health problem, which is a very high computer related morbidity. This observation is in conformity with Shah et al  where 93.56% software professionals, had one or more problems. The result is also in accordance with study done by Peper and Gibney  where 96.8% of college students studied reported some discomfort. In the study done by Sjogren-Rouka et al  in Finland on computer operators, as many as 91.8% reported one or other problem. The common problems seen among the study subjects were musculoskeletal (77.5%) and visual (76%) followed by stress (35%). The meta-analysis done by Lim et al  for National Institute for Occupational Health (NIOSH) found musculoskeletal discomfort to be as or more prevalent than visual discomfort with prevalence rates of 20%-75%. In a metaanalysis done by WHO  on VDT prevalence of stress in operators varied between 14-70%. The differences in the prevalence rates of computer related problems in various studies depended upon factors like workstation environment, degree of immobilization and levels of constrained postures, awareness levels and practices of workers regarding computer ergonomics. It is observed that occurrence of visual problem is related more to number of hours spent gazing at the screen than number of years. On the other hand, musculoskeletal symptoms have a cumulative effect on the subjects with initial symptoms being mild and temporary and later with increasing years assuming more intense and permanent nature. Stress felt is seen more in initial years in the present study. It was further influenced by type of work and job content. It is evident that computer related morbidity had become an important occupational health problem and is a matter of great concern. This study has also brought into focus factors contributing to the occurrence of these problems. The high prevalence makes it imperative for the concerned personals to take a serious note of it. There is an immediate need for the concerned authorities to collaborate and enforce suitable preventive measures. The relevant and necessary knowledge about the ergonomic needs of these problems require probing.
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