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Work-related musculoskeletal disorders among occupational fishermen: a systematic literature review
  1. Line Nørgaard Remmen1,2,
  2. Regina Fromsejer Heiberg3,
  3. David Høyrup Christiansen4,5,
  4. Kimmo Herttua3,
  5. Gabriele Berg-Beckhoff6
  1. 1 Department of Public Health, Research Unit for Health Promotion, University of Southern Denmark, Esbjerg, Denmark
  2. 2 University College South Denmark, Esbjerg, Denmark
  3. 3 Department of Public Health, Center for Maritime Health and Society, University of Southern Denmark, Esbjerg, Denmark
  4. 4 Department of Occupational Medicine, University Research Clinic, Regional Hospital West Jutland, Herning, Denmark
  5. 5 Department of Clinical Medicine, Health, Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark
  6. 6 Department of Public Health, Research Unit for Health Promotion, University of Southern Denmark, Esbjerg, Syddanmark, Denmark
  1. Correspondence to Line Nørgaard Remmen, Department of Public Health, Research Unit for Health Promotion, University of Southern Denmark, 5230 Odense, Denmark; lremmen{at}


Background Commercial fishing constitutes an increased risk of musculoskeletal disorders (MSD), as it consists of heavy workloads and uncontrollable strenuous settings. The aims of this systematic review were to describe the prevalence of MSD among occupational fishermen and to identify risk factors for onset work-related MSD.

Methods All studies investigating MSD in occupational fishermen were systematically identified and reviewed. Searched databases were PubMed/MEDLINE, EMBASE and CINAHL. Two independent researchers performed the quality assessments of the studies.

Results From 292 articles identified, 16 articles consisting of 13 studies were suitable for inclusion. Prevalence of overall MSD ranged from 15% to 93%. The only consistent work-related risk factor was ‘working part time’, while other risk factors, such as vessel and job type showed conflicting results.

Conclusion MSDs in occupational fishermen are common across countries. Variations observed in MSD prevalence might be due to differences in methodology, populations and definitions of MSD. Evidence on work-related risk factors for MSD is sparse and most studies were of poor methodological quality. Only working part time was identified as a consistent risk factor for MSD possibly caused by a healthy worker effect. There is a need for investigating causality in longitudinal studies, including both active and retired fishermen to better understand the complexity of MSD.

PROSPERO registration number CRD42020147318

  • health and safety
  • occupational health practice
  • musculoskeletal
  • workload

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  • Contributors Research aim was formulated by LNR, RFH and GB-B and supported by DHC and KH. Literature research was done by LNR and RFH, data extraction and quality assessments were done by LNR and RFH and supported by GB-B. LNR is responsible for the content and wrote the first draft of the article. All authors contributed to the interpretation of the data, edited and revised the texts and approved the final version.

  • Funding The systematic review was carried out as a part of a PhD-program funded by the University of Southern Denmark and University College South.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.