The contribution of repetitive strain injury (RSI) towards workplace injuries is being greatly exaggerated, researchers have said.
British scientists state that only one person claiming they suffer from RSI out of three has genuine symptoms.
According to the Labour Force Survey, used by European governments to plan occupational health strategies, two million Britons claim their illness is related to their jobs.
The research, from the epidemiology research centre at the University of Southampton, saw 5,000 workplace injury patients quizzed about their health.
They were asked about the physical nature of their profession, the state of their overall and mental health and whether they suffered from RSI.
Forty-six per cent of respondents said they had suffered from arm pain in the last 12 months, while 54 per cent said their occupation had either worsened or caused their symptoms.
But according to University of Southampton researchers, only 14 per cent of arm pain is caused by arm-straining activities; a statistic arrived at by calculating the population attributable factor (PAF) in the 5,000 patients contacted.
"Statistics from Labour Force Surveys are widely quoted as evidence for the scale of occupational illness," they write in the British Medical Journal specialist publication Occupational and Environmental Medicine.
"However, their validity as a measure of the burden of disease caused by work is questionable."