Objectives: To determine the prevalence ranges of low back pain (LBP) together with any related disability in Australian adults.
Design: A population-based survey.
Methods: The survey was mailed in June 2001 to a stratified random sample of 3000 Australian adults selected from the Electoral Roll. Demographic variables of respondents were compared with the Australian population. Selective response bias was investigated using wave analysis. A range of prevalence data was derived, as were disability scores using the Chronic Pain Grade.
Results: There was a 69% response rate. There was little variation between the sample and the Australian adult population. There was no significant selective response bias found. The sample point prevalence was estimated at 25.6% (95% confidence interval [CI], 23.6-27.5), 12-month prevalence was 67.6% (95% CI, 65.5-69.7), and lifetime prevalence was 79.2%, (95% CI, 77.3-81.0). In the previous 6-month period, 42.6% (95% CI, 40.4-44.8) of the adult population had experienced low-intensity pain and low disability from it. Another 10.9% (95% CI, 9.6-12.3) had experienced high intensity-pain but still low disability from this pain. However, 10.5% (95% CI, 9.2-11.9) had experienced high-disability LBP.
Conclusion: LBP is a common problem in the Australian adult population, yet most of this is low-intensity and low-disability pain. Nevertheless, over 10% had been significantly disabled by LBP in the past 6 months. Data from this study will provide a better understanding of the magnitude of the LBP problem in Australia, the need for access to health care resources, and also strategic research directions.