Study design: A systematic review of observational studies.
Objectives: To assess whether psychosocial factors at work and in private life are risk factors for the occurrence of back pain.
Summary of background data: Several reviews on risk factors for back pain have paid attention to psychosocial factors. However, in none of the published reviews was a strict systematic approach used to identify and summarize the available evidence.
Methods: A computerized bibliographical search of several databases was performed, restricted to studies with a cohort or case-control design. A rating system was used to assess the strength of the evidence for various factors, based on the methodologic quality of the studies and the consistency of the findings.
Results: Eleven cohort and two case-control studies were included in this review. Strong evidence was found for low social support in the workplace and low job satisfaction as risk factors for back pain. Insufficient evidence was found for an effect of a high work pace, high qualitative demands, low job content, low job control, and psychosocial factors in private life.
Conclusions: Evidence was found for an effect of low workplace social support and low job satisfaction. However, the result for workplace social support was sensitive to slight changes in the rating system, and the effect found for low job satisfaction may be a result of insufficient adjustment for psychosocial work characteristics and physical load at work. In addition, the combined evaluation of job content and job control, both aspects of decision latitude, led to strong evidence of a role for low job decision latitude. Thus, based on this review, there is evidence for an effect of work-related psychosocial factors, but the evidence for the role of specific factors has not been established yet.