Severe back pain among farmworker high school students from Starr County, Texas: baseline results

Ann Epidemiol. 2007 Feb;17(2):132-41. doi: 10.1016/j.annepidem.2006.06.011. Epub 2006 Oct 5.


Purpose: This cohort study is among the first to estimate the prevalence of and examine potential risk factors for severe back pain (resulting in medical care, 4+ hours of time lost, or pain lasting 1+ weeks) among adolescent farmworkers. These youth often perform tasks requiring bent/stooped postures and heavy lifting.

Methods: Of 2536 students who participated (response rate across the three public high schools, 61.2% to 83.9%), 410 students were farmworkers (largely Hispanic and migrant). Students completed a self-administered Web-based survey including farm work/nonfarm work and back-pain items relating to a 9-month period.

Results: The prevalence of severe back pain was 15.7% among farmworkers and 12.4% among nonworkers. The prevalence increased to 19.1% among farm workers (n = 131) who also did nonfarm work. A multiple logistic regression for farmworkers showed that significantly increased adjusted odds ratios for severe back pain were female sex (4.59); prior accident/back injury (9.04); feeling tense, stressed, or anxious sometimes/often (4.11); lifting/carrying heavy objects not at work (2.98); current tobacco use (2.79); 6+ years involved in migrant farm work (5.02); working with/around knives (3.87); and working on corn crops (3.40).

Conclusions: Areas for further research include ergonomic exposure assessments and examining the effects of doing farm work and nonfarm work simultaneously.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Agriculture*
  • Back Pain / epidemiology
  • Back Pain / physiopathology*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Data Collection
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Odds Ratio
  • Severity of Illness Index*
  • Texas / epidemiology