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Rideshare Drivers Report Acute Musculoskeletal Pain, Study Finds Rideshare Drivers Report Acute Musculoskeletal Pain, Study Finds

Rideshare Drivers Report Acute Musculoskeletal Pain, Study Finds

On-demand employment, also known as the “gig economy,” is on the rise in the United States. The rideshare business, including Uber and Lyft, allows people to contract or provide freelance car transportation services through digital platform technologies. While there are about half a million drivers in the industry, little is known about the associated health and safety issues.

Miller School of Medicine experts led a pilot study titled “Acute Musculoskeletal Pain Reported Among Rideshare Drivers in the Health/Safety Investigation Among Non-Standard Workers in the Gig Economy (H.I.N.G.E.),” which investigated acute musculoskeletal pain among this population. The study was published in the May issue of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

Results showed that more than 37 percent of rideshare drivers reported experiencing muscle or joint pain for periods as long as a week. Two areas of body pain reported more frequently were the lower back and neck. Researchers also found that the length of time a rideshare driver spent driving per week was associated with acute musculoskeletal pain.

“Workers in the gig economy, including Uber and Lyft drivers, are a growing segment of the working population,” said lead study author Alberto J. Caban-Martinez, D.O., Ph.D., M.P.H., C.P.H., assistant professor of public health sciences at the Miller School of Medicine. “Little is known about how these workers experience health protections when they are not tethered to an employer who can provide safeguards and even health promotion activities.”

These workers share many attributes with other individuals who drive for a living, such as taxicab drivers, chauffeurs, and truck drivers. Little was known about the acute musculoskeletal pain that rideshare drivers experience. Adding to this, rideshare businesses lack health insurance, retirement benefits, and worker compensation for drivers. This promotes precarious working conditions, such as limited access to medical treatment and care, wage instability, job uncertainty due to rating systems, and costly car maintenance expenses, which, in turn, can negatively impact the drivers’ health.

To learn more about this population researchers used quantitative data collected as part of the “Health/Safety Investigation Among Non-Standard Workers in the Gig Economy (H.I.N.G.E.) pilot study” to characterize and describe the acute musculoskeletal pain reported by U.S. rideshare drivers.

The study showed that 34.3 percent of participants reported feeling pain in their lower back and 11.4 percent reported neck pain. Rideshare drivers who experienced acute musculoskeletal pain spent 14.4 more hours per week in rideshare driving than those without joint pain, raising the possibility that taking breaks between rides or spreading the amount of time spent in rideshare hours per week could reduce acute joint pain.

Compared with drivers with no musculoskeletal pain, drivers who did experience pain considered rideshare their primary job, worked more hours per week, and rated their overall health as fair or poor.

Study findings provide a basis for future longitudinal studies that should investigate the physical and mental impact that the rideshare industry has on drivers. Researchers note that further study is needed to document the health protection and health promotions, facilitators, and barriers of this specific working population.

Written by Amanda Torres
Published on May 28, 2020