Objective and design: The prevalence of low back pain was assessed in relation to physical activity, for both work and leisure activities, in a randomly selected population in the northern part of Sweden. Additionally, the associations between age, sex, level of education, lifestyle factors, demographic characteristics, and low back pain were evaluated.
Subjects: A total of 5798 subjects aged 25-79 years were selected randomly from a geographically well-defined area in northern Sweden.
Methods: Additional questions concerning people's experience of low back pain were added to the questionnaire of the World Health Organization MONICA (MONItoring of trends and determinants in CArdiovascular disease) health survey with the aim of investigating prevalence rates and factors associated with low back pain.
Results: Forty-one percent of the participants reported having low back pain (of these 55% were women and 45% men). The prevalence rate was highest in the age group 55-64 years. Chronic low back pain was the most frequent occurring problem. Of those with low back pain, 43% of the women and 37% of the men reported having continuous low back pain for more than 6 months. Individuals with low back pain often experienced a more physically heavy workload at work and lower physical activity during leisure time, and they were also more likely to have been smokers, have had higher body mass index, lived in smaller communities, and were less educated than people without low back pain.
Conclusion: Low back pain seems to be associated with physical activity at work and in leisure time, certain lifestyle factors and demographic characteristics.