Direct and indirect costs in persons with chronic back pain and comorbid mental disorders--a systematic review

J Psychosom Res. 2012 Aug;73(2):79-85. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychores.2012.05.008. Epub 2012 Jun 15.


Objective: Direct inpatient and outpatient healthcare costs as well as indirect costs (e.g. productivity losses) are hypothesized to be increased in chronic back pain (CBP) patients with mental disorders. The aim of this systematic review is to examine this hypothesis by comparing costs in CBP patients with and without mental disorders.

Methods: A comprehensive literature search (Medline, EMBASE, PsycINFO, Psyndex, EconLit, IBSS) was conducted. All studies were included which allowed for a comparison of direct and indirect costs between CBP patients with and without mental disorders.

Results: Of 2283 potentially relevant articles, 10 studies fulfilled the inclusion criteria. Total healthcare costs (SMD=0.16 [SE=0.06]; n=1), CBP-related healthcare costs (SMD=0.21 [0.06]; n=1), CBP-related primary care visits (OR=1.6 [95%-CI:1.2-2.3]; n=1), CBP-related specialty care visits (OR=1.4 [1.0-2.0];n=1), CBP-related radiologic procedures (OR=1.6 [1.0-2.5]; n=1) and mental health visits (OR=8.1 [7.3-9.1]; n=2) were increased in CBP patients with depression. The incidence of new surgeries was increased in CBP patients with PTSD (OR=4.2 [1.6-10.8]; n=1). Pain-related healthcare use (n=1) in CBP patients with both depression and anxiety and CBP-related hospital admissions (n=1) in CBP patients with depression were not increased. Regarding indirect costs results were inconsistent for both return to work rates (n=3) and work absence (n=2).

Conclusion: The results indicate increased direct but not indirect costs in CBP patients with mental disorders. However, the evidence is limited due to the low number of studies per outcome. This is all the more problematic, since the adequate allocation of healthcare resources will become a major topic of health care policy due to limited resources.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Back Pain / complications
  • Back Pain / economics*
  • Chronic Pain / complications
  • Chronic Pain / economics*
  • Cost of Illness*
  • Health Care Costs*
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders / complications
  • Mental Disorders / economics*
  • Return to Work