SweJEM: Physical workload

The job-exposure matrix (JEM) for physical workload contains eight different exposures regarding mechanical load on muscles and joints as well as load on the cardiorespiratory system. It also contains an index variable for overall physical workload based on the eight exposures.

The JEM is based on questions from the Swedish Work Environment Surveys conducted every second year during 1989-2013 and answered by approximately 90,000 men and women.

The matrix is provided for two time periods: 1989-1997 and 1997-2013, and separately for women and men.  The JEM for the period 1989–1997 contains measures of physical load in 318 occupations classified according to NYK83 (at 3-digit level). The JEM for the period 1997-2013 contains measures of physical work load in 355 occupations classified according to SSYK96 (at 4-digit level). 

The JEM is available as separate Excel files for eight different exposures, and an index variable based on the eight exposures, separate for women and men. 

The eight exposures consist of the proportion of the working time exposed to: 

  1. Heavy lifting (at least 15 kg)
  2. Physically strenuous work (i.e. work that involves straining your body more than when you are walking and standing and moving in a usual way)
  3. Fast breathing (i.e. work that involves exerting yourself in a way that makes you breathe faster)
  4. Forward bent position
  5. Twisted position
  6. Hands above shoulder level (at shoulder height or above)
  7. Repetitive work (i.e. work that involves repeating the same work movements at least twice per minute)
  8. Frequent bending or twisting (in the same way many times per hour and for several hours during the same day)


The matrix has been used in a number of studies, published during recent years and presenting epidemiological findings agreeing with international studies of the same research questions. Please see examples in the following publications.


Disability pensions related to heavy physical workload: a cohort study of middle-aged and older workers in Sweden.
Falkstedt D, Hemmingsson T, Albin M, Bodin T, Ahlbom A, Selander J, Gustavsson P, Andersson T, Almroth M, Kjellberg K
Int Arch Occup Environ Health 2021 Nov;94(8):1851-1861

Physical workload and increased frequency of musculoskeletal pain: a cohort study of employed men and women with baseline occasional pain.
Badarin K, Hemmingsson T, Hillert L, Kjellberg K
Occup Environ Med 2021 Jan;78(8):558-66

The impact of musculoskeletal pain and strenuous work on self-reported physical work ability: a cohort study of Swedish men and women.
Badarin K, Hemmingsson T, Hillert L, Kjellberg K
Int Arch Occup Environ Health 2022 Jul;95(5):939-952

Does a change to an occupation with a lower physical workload reduce the risk of disability pension? A cohort study of employed men and women in Sweden.
Badarin K, Hemmingsson T, Almroth M, Falkstedt D, Hillert L, Kjellberg K
Scand J Work Environ Health 2022 Nov;48(8):662-671



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Katarina Kjellberg

Research Specialist
Anna Persson