Low back pain as a predictor of long-term work disability

Scand J Public Health. 2002;30(4):288-92. doi: 10.1080/14034940210133951.


Aim: To investigate low back pain (LBP), with and without other musculoskeletal pains, as a predictor of long-term work disability.

Method: A four-year prospective study was conducted. All inhabitants in the municipality of Ullensaker, Norway, born in 1928-30, 1938-40, 1948-50, 1958-60 and 1968-70, received a mailed questionnaire in 1990 and 1994. The present study comprised the 1.788 responders who were working in 1990. Of these, 1426 (80%) returned the questionnaire four years later. The main outcome measure was long-term work disability (>eight weeks) in 1994.

Results: LBP in 1990 predicted long-term work disability in 1994 (odds ratio (OR) = 1.95, 95% confidence interval (CI) = 1.39-2.74). Localized LBP however, did not predict long-term work disability, while LBP accompanied by widespread pain did (OR = 3.52, 95% CI = 1.09-11.37), also after adjustments for demographic, lifestyle, and work-related factors. Other predictors of long-term work disability were high age, sick leave last year, heavy lifting in the job, poor sleep quality and smoking.

Conclusion: LBP in persons with widespread musculoskeletal pain predicted long-term work disability, while localized LBP did not.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Aged
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Low Back Pain / epidemiology*
  • Male
  • Marital Status
  • Middle Aged
  • Norway / epidemiology
  • Sex Distribution
  • Sick Leave / statistics & numerical data*
  • Smoking / epidemiology
  • Time
  • Workload