The weight of schoolbags and the prevalence of musculoskeletal symptoms amongst 140 students (70 third form students comprising 35 females and 35 males, and 70 sixth form students comprising 35 females and 35 males) from five New Zealand secondary schools was investigated. Schoolbag weight for third form students (mean age 13.6 years) was 13.2% of their body weight, while for sixth form students (mean age 17.1 years) it was 10.3% of their body weight. These weights may exceed the recommended guideline load limits for adult industrial workers. Musculoskeletal symptoms were reported by 77.1% of the students. Symptoms were most prevalent in the neck, shoulders, upper back and lower back. Although musculoskeletal symptoms are believed to be multifactorial in origin, the carriage of heavy schoolbags is a suspected contributory factor and may represent an overlooked daily physical stress for New Zealand secondary school students. © 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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