The experience of low-back pain and its psychosocial associates were directly compared among sufferers drawn from three populations, a blue-collar working group, a white-collar working group, and a patient group. Sufferers drawn from the patient population revealed the expected psychological disturbance. There was no evidence of such involvement for sufferers still at work. Disability resulting from low-back pain was positively linearly related to severity of pain for sufferers drawn from working groups, irrespective of psychological disturbance. For patients, on the other hand, the presence of psychological disturbance modified the relationship between severity and disability such that no simple linear relationship existed between the two variables. Work dissatisfaction was not found to be related to the presence of, and did not account for disability resulting from, low-back pain in working subjects.