One in three complaints of eye strain, attributed to computer monitors, is really about employee dissatisfaction with working conditions, suggests research in Occupational and Environmental Medicine.
More than 200 banking employees completed three questionnaires on job stress, environmental working conditions and levels of eye strain as a result of working with computers. Their average age was 38; 33 of them were women.
All the employees shared the same environment and work duties, and none had any history of eye problems.
Eye strain included itchy, sore, or heavy eyes and blurred or double vision during or immediately after work three or more times a week.
Job stress strongly predicted eye strain, accounting for almost a third of the complaints.
Job stress included lack of social support, group conflict, low self esteem, low levels of work satisfaction and underuse of skills.
But where employees did feel supported, they were a third less likely to report eye strain, according to the research.
Lighting did not seem to affect levels of eye strain, but noise and environmental tobacco smoke did.
The authors concluded that a proportion of eye strain complaints are psychological in origin, and are an expression of workplace stress rather than having any true organic cause. They suggested that stimulating an emotionally supportive environment could alleviate the effects of stress.
by Virginia Sutcliffe