College Student Computer Use and Ergonomics

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Title: College Student Computer Use and Ergonomics
Author: Noack, Karen Lee
Advisors: Gary A. Mirka, PhD, Committee Chair
Carolyn Sommerich, PhD, Committee Member
Nelson Couch, PhD, Committee Member
Abstract: Student computer users are at risk for Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs), such as carpal tunnel syndrome and tendonitis, and tension neck syndrome. Past research has identified repetition, duration, and posture as contributors to the development of MSDs in the computer work environment and these risk factors are present in the activities of student computer users as well as professional computer users. A web-based questionnaire was administered to 234 undergraduate and graduate college students majoring in either engineering or humanities and social sciences. The results of this study were compared with the results of a previous survey of professional workers that has a similar question structure. Sixty four percent of college students reported assuming an awkward posture at least 'sometimes' while using a desktop computer. On the 24-hour clock, college students reported their computer use to be at least 'somewhat likely' between the hours of 8:00 a.m. — 2:00 a.m., while for professional workers the time period was reduced to the 12 hours between 6:00 a.m. — 6:00 p.m. The survey also showed that college students work on the computer for closer to 90 minutes before taking a break, while the professional workers worked closer to 60 minutes before taking a break. In participants under 35 years of age, graduate students reported on average 33.7 weekly computing hours, compared to the 35.2 hours reported by professional workers. In general, college students reported a higher frequency of upper extremity discomfort than professional workers, and female participants reported higher discomfort than their male counterparts. There is still much to be learned about college students' interaction with computers, their risk of developing MSDs, and means by which risk can be reduced. The importance of incorporating ergonomics in the daily life of student computer users is apparent; it is believed that college students are likely to enter the workforce with poor computing habits and that appropriate education while the students are still in college is necessary to reduce the lifetime risk of developing these disorders.
Date: 2003-06-05
Degree: MS
Discipline: Industrial Engineering

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