Bags do come with safety features these days, of course. But are they absolutely necessary?

According to a study conducted in 2017 by a group doctors in the country, at least 40 percent of the Class VIII students in Thimphu are carrying bags heavier than the recommended weight.

But, where is the safety feature part in it? It is to be wondered, though, how safety features on a bag would help reduce the weight of a bag that an individual student is required to carry to and from school.

According to the study, safety features on a bag include padded shoulder strap, chest straps, compartments and hip straps. While 55 percent of the children had at least two types of safety features, almost 12 percent did not have safety features in their bags.

The study was presented at Fourth International Conference on Medical and Health Sciences that ended on November 11 in Thimphu.

Close to 450 Class VIII and X students from schools in Thimphu and thromde were interviewed.

Kidu Medical Unit’s Dr Thinley Dorji said that 441 students were involved in the scientific study. “This means the conclusion made by the study is scientifically sound to interpret it as a representative of whole Thimphu district.”

The recommended backpack weight for adults is 15 percent of the body weight of the person. Dr Thinley Dorji said that scientifically the recommended backpack weight for children was 10 percent of the body weight.

The study also found that Class VIII students were carrying heavier bags than Class X students. While the mean weight of the bags for Class X students was 4kg, it was 4.6kg for Class VIII students.

The study says that as a consequence of heavier bags, about 32 percent of those studied complained of back pain; 26 percent complained of shoulder pain.

The study also found that 93.2 percent of those interviewed suffered from musculoskeletal pain. Dr Thinley Dorji said that about 114 students had missed schools in the last 12 months due to musculoskeletal pain.

The statistical analysis conducted by the study found that children carrying bags heavier than the recommended weight were 2.7 times more likely to complain of musculoskeletal pain, which increased to 5.7 times if the bags are carried on one shoulder.

Dr Thinley Dorji said that the children who suffer from body pain were more likely to develop mental illness in the long-term. He added that providing storage lockers in schools, using bag on wheels, safe ergonomic practices, and bags with safety features would benefit to reduce the musculoskeletal pain in students.

The findings of the study did not apply for the students in rural and central schools, he said. “I hope that the parents will consider the safety features on the bags when buying them for their children.”

Phurpa Lhamo