The relations between osteoarticular disorders and occupational exposure to heavy physical work factors were studied in a random sample of retired subjects living in the Paris area, all of whom had contributed to the same retirement pension fund. 627 subjects were originally seen in 1982-3 and 464 of them were seen again five years later. On both occasions, the same questionnaire was completed during a home interview. Osteoarticular disorders were evaluated by the presence of pain, with or without restricted joint movement, for at least six months before interview. The heavy physical work factors were those reported by the subject at the first interview, and only subjects who stated that they had been exposed to these factors for more than 10 years were considered as exposed persons. For those who were seen twice, the frequency of osteoarticular pain increased during the five years between the two interviews, from 52% to 65% in the men and 72% to 82% in the women. Among both sexes, these frequencies were significantly higher in those who stated that in the past they had to carry heavy weights and work in tiring positions. The increases in frequency of pain during the five year study period were also related to these occupational factors. In general, the frequencies for subjects not exposed to occupational factors caught up with those found for the exposed group. This interaction of age with the relation between exposure to heavy physical work factors and osteoarticular disorders does not seem to be explained by confounding factors, including age at the first interview, the fact of living alone, of being a former manual worker, of having a cardiorespiratory disorder, and smoking habits. The results of the survey suggest that working conditions are an important cause of osteoarticular disorders that last well beyond the end of working life.
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