Predictors of low back pain onset in a prospective British study

Am J Public Health. 2001 Oct;91(10):1671-8. doi: 10.2105/ajph.91.10.1671.


Objectives: This study examined predictors of low back pain onset in a British birth cohort.

Methods: Univariate and multivariate analyses focused on individuals who experienced onset of low back pain at 32 to 33 years of age (n= 571) and individuals who were pain free (n = 5210). Participants were members of the 1958 British birth cohort.

Results: Incident pain was elevated among those with psychological distress at 23 years of age (adjusted odds ratio [OR] = 2.52, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.65, 3.86) and among persistent moderate or heavy smokers (adjusted OR = 1.63, 95% CI = 1.23, 2.17). Significant univariate associations involving other factors (e.g., social class, childhood emotional status, body mass index, job satisfaction) did not persist in multivariate analyses.

Conclusions: This prospectively studied cohort provides evidence that psychological distress more than doubles later risk of low back pain, with smoking having a modest independent effect. Other prospective studies are needed to confirm these findings before implications for low back pain prevention can be assessed.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cohort Studies
  • Ergonomics
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Low Back Pain / epidemiology*
  • Low Back Pain / etiology*
  • Low Back Pain / psychology
  • Male
  • Obesity / complications
  • Odds Ratio
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • United Kingdom / epidemiology