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Epidemiology of back pain in older adults: prevalence and risk factors for back pain onset

Epidemiology of back pain in older adults: prevalence and risk factors for back pain onset

Docking, Rachael E., Fleming, Jane, Brayne, Carol, Zhao, Jun, Macfarlane, Gary J. and Jones, Gareth T. (2011) Epidemiology of back pain in older adults: prevalence and risk factors for back pain onset. Rheumatology, 50 (9). pp. 1645-1653. ISSN 1462-0324 (Print), 1462-0332 (Online) (doi:

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OBJECTIVES: To determine the prevalence of disabling and non-disabling back pain across age in older adults, and identify risk factors for back pain onset in this age group.

METHODS: Participants aged ≥ 75 years answered interviewer-administered questions on back pain as part of a prospective cohort study [Cambridge City over-75s Cohort Study (CC75C)]. Descriptive analyses of data from two surveys, 1988-89 and 1992-93, estimated prevalence and new onset of back pain. Relative risks (RRs) and 95% CIs were estimated using Poisson regression, adjusted for age and gender.

RESULTS: Prevalence of disabling and non-disabling back pain was 6 and 23%, respectively. While prevalence of non-disabling back pain did not vary significantly across age (χ²trend : 0.90; P = 0.34), the prevalence of disabling back pain increased with age (χ²trend : 4.02; P = 0.04). New-onset disabling and non-disabling back pain at follow-up was 15 and 5%, respectively. Risk factors found to predict back pain onset at follow-up were: poor self-rated health (RR 3.8; 95% CI 1.8, 8.0); depressive symptoms (RR 2.2; 95% CI 1.3, 3.7); use of health or social services (RR 1.7; 95% CI 1.1, 2.7); and previous back pain (RR 2.1; 95% CI 1.2-3.5). From these, poor self-rated health, previous back pain and depressive symptoms were found to be independent predictors of pain onset. Markers of social networks were not associated with the reporting of back pain onset.

CONCLUSION: The risk of disabling back pain rises in older age. Older adults with poor self-rated health, depressive symptoms, increased use of health and social services and a previous episode of back pain are at greater risk of reporting future back pain onset.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: [1] Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the British Society for Rheumatology. [2] Authors' research published on behalf of the Cambridge City over-75s Cohort Study collaboration. [3] The authors would like to acknowledge particularly the CC75C study participants, their families, friends and the staff in many care homes and collaborating general practices without whose help none of this research would be possible. Furthermore, the authors gratefully acknowledge the contributions of previous investigators and past research team members and the helpful comments on earlier drafts of this article from current CC75C study collaborators (see full list at We thank all the past CC75C sponsors for financial support spanning two decades (see for full list of project grants) most recently the British United Provident Association (BUPA) Foundation for support under their Health and Care of Older People grant. Current CC75C research is in association with the NIHR CLAHRC (National Institute for Health Research Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research & Care) for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.
Uncontrolled Keywords: back pain, older people, epidemiology, prevalence, aetiology
Subjects: R Medicine > RM Therapeutics. Pharmacology
Pre-2014 Departments: School of Health & Social Care
Related URLs:
Last Modified: 14 Oct 2016 09:24

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