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Year : 2019  |  Volume : 51  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 140-144

Burdened by the bag: A school-based cross-sectional survey

1 Occupational Therapy Unit, Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Christian Medical College, Vellore, Tamil Nadu, India
2 Department Biostatistics, Christian Medical College, Vellore, Tamil Nadu, India

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Sanjeev Manasseh Padankatti
Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Christian Medical College, Vellore - 632 004, Tamil Nadu
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/ijoth.ijoth_13_19

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Background: The demands of education in our country have led to an increase in the loads children carry on a daily basis to school. Research evidence confirms that excessive loads lead to musculoskeletal problems in children, predisposing them to chronic back pain in adulthood. This problem becomes pertinent in primary school children, owing to the development of the spine at this age. Objectives: This study aims to assess the magnitude of the issue of heavy schoolbags, by measuring schoolbag weights and the factors affecting the ≤10% of body weight recommendation, and the children's perception of discomfort and pain. Study Design: Cross-sectional survey design was chosen for the research. Methods: Two schools with different syllabi, Indian Certificate of Secondary Examination and Central Board of Secondary Examination were approached and the schoolbags of children from Grades 1 to 5, aged 6-12-year (n = 776; boys = 402 and girls = 374), were weighed, and followed up over a week. Children were asked to rate their pain on the Faces Pain Scale-Revised and teachers' responses were collected through a teacher reported questionnaire prepared by the authors, which assessed their knowledge and control regarding the issue. Results: Majority of children carried a backpack and a separate lunch bag to and from school. A large percentage, 97.8% of schoolbags, weighed more than the recommended limit of ≤ 10% of the body weight. The mean weight of schoolbags carried was 5.9 ± 1.5 kg. Boys carried on an average 5.91 ± 1.48 kg and girls 5.98 ± 1.55 kg. Forty-eight percent of the children reported that carrying the schoolbag was causing discomfort and musculoskeletal pain and 77% of them reported discomfort at the shoulder region. Faces Pain Scale-Revised score ranged from 2 to 9 with 8 as an average intensity. Eighteen children reported absenteeism from school ranging from 1 to 5 days over the last term. The perception of teachers regarding the problem of schoolbag weights was mixed. Conclusion: This study concludes that heavy schoolbags are a problem in both the schools, with different syllabi. Being forced to carry heavy bags may lead to “schoolbag syndrome” in children. Thus, stringent measures need to be undertaken to reduce the bag burden and protect the health of children.

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