Beliefs about back pain: results of a population survey of working age adults

Clin J Pain. Mar-Apr 2011;27(3):214-24. doi: 10.1097/AJP.0b013e3181ffc00b.


Background: Beliefs about low back pain (LBP) have been widely studied. Research supports the importance of attitudes and beliefs in the development of disability. However, public opinions about LBP have been the subject of few studies to date and more research into public attitudes has been advocated to inform future public health initiatives.

Objectives: To investigate public attitudes and beliefs about LBP, and the association of these with demographic variables. In addition, to determine whether certain group differences in demographic characteristics were useful in predicting individuals with negative attitudes about LBP.

Methods: A stratified sample of 3400 households were invited to participate in the Jersey Annual Social Survey. One thousand five hundred and seventy-four (46.3%) responded and 1132 (71.9%) were identified as being of working age. Complete responses to the Back Beliefs Questionnaire were provided by 1023 (65.0%).

Results: Respondents were grouped according to pain report: no current pain, current pain not LBP, and current LBP. Significant differences existed between subgroups for most demographic characteristics. Moreover, beliefs about LBP differed significantly between the 3 groups [F (2,1019)=17.72, P<0.001]. Further analyses were carried out for the subgroups separately. For the Current LBP group, beliefs differed significantly by educational level [F(2,186)=14.65, P<0.001], perceived general health [F (2,187)=4.42, P<0.05], acceptability of work absence [F (2,189)=10.69, P<0.001], LBP impact on activity [F (2,186)=6.38, P<0.01], and previous LBP absence [t (185)=4.84, P<0.001]. Multiple regression using these characteristics produced an adjusted R of 0.25 [F (4,181)=16.33, P<0.001] for the prediction of back beliefs.

Discussion: Implications for public health initiatives and future research are discussed.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Back Pain / epidemiology*
  • Back Pain / psychology*
  • Data Collection*
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Health Literacy / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Public Opinion*
  • United Kingdom / epidemiology
  • Young Adult