Prevalence and work-related risk factors for reduced activities and absenteeism due to low back symptoms

Appl Ergon. 2012 Jul;43(4):727-37. doi: 10.1016/j.apergo.2011.11.004. Epub 2011 Nov 26.


Although quite a lot is known about the risk factors for low back symptoms (LBS), less is known about the risk factors for the consequences of LBS. A sample of 3003 men and women randomly selected from the New Zealand Electoral Roll, were interviewed by telephone about self reported physical, psychosocial, organizational, environmental factors and the consequences of LBS (i.e. self-reported reduced activities and absenteeism). The 12-month period prevalence of reduced activities and absenteeism were 18% and 9%, respectively. Lifting (OR 1.79 95% CI 1.16-2.77) increased the risk of reduced activities. Working in awkward/tiring positions (OR 2.11 95% CI 1.20-3.70) and in a cold/damp environment (OR 2.18 95% CI 1.11-4.28) increased the risk of absenteeism. Among those with LBS, reduced activities increased with working in a hot/warm environment (OR 2.14 95% CI 1.22-3.76) and absenteeism was increased with work in awkward/tiring positions (OR 2.06 95% CI 1.13-3.77), tight deadlines (OR 1.89 95% CI 1.02-3.50), and a hot/warm environment (OR 3.35 95% CI 1.68-6.68). Interventions to reduce the consequences of LBS should aim to reduce awkward/tiring positions, lifting and work in a cold/damp environment. For individuals with LBS, additional focus should be to reduce tight deadlines, and work in hot/warm environments.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Absenteeism*
  • Adult
  • Cold Temperature / adverse effects
  • Female
  • Hot Temperature / adverse effects
  • Human Activities*
  • Humans
  • Lifting / adverse effects
  • Low Back Pain / complications*
  • Low Back Pain / etiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • New Zealand
  • Occupational Diseases / complications*
  • Occupational Diseases / etiology
  • Posture
  • Risk Factors
  • Self Report
  • Stress, Psychological / complications
  • Workload
  • Workplace
  • Young Adult