To determine the impact of occupational psychological/social and mechanical factors on neck pain, a prospective cohort study with a follow-up period of 2 years was conducted with a sample of Norwegian employees. The following designs were tested: (i) cross-sectional analyses at baseline (n=4569) and follow-up (n=4122), (ii) prospective analyses with baseline predictors, (iii) prospective analyses with average exposure over time [(T1+T2)/2] as predictor, and (iv) prospective analyses with measures of change in exposure from T1 to T2 as predictors. A total of 2419 employees responded to both the baseline and follow-up questionnaire. Data were analyzed using ordinal logistic regression. After adjustment for age, sex, neck pain at T1, and other exposure factors that had been estimated to be confounders, the most consistent risk factors were role conflict (highest OR 2.97, 99% CI: 1.29-6.74) and working with arms raised to or above shoulder level (highest OR 1.37, 99% CI: 1.05-1.78). The most consistent protective factors were empowering leadership (lowest OR 0.53, 99% CI: 0.35-0.81) and decision control (lowest OR 0.60, 99% CI: 0.36-1.00). Hence, psychological and social factors are important precursors of neck pain, along with mechanical factors. Although traditional factors such as quantitative demands and decision control play a part in the etiology of neck pain at work, in this study several new factors emerged as more important.