Low Back Pain Prevalence and Related Workplace Psychosocial Risk Factors: A Study Using Data From the 2010 National Health Interview Survey

J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 2016 Sep;39(7):459-472. doi: 10.1016/j.jmpt.2016.07.004. Epub 2016 Aug 25.


Objectives: The objectives of this study were to estimate prevalence of low back pain, to investigate associations between low back pain and a set of emerging workplace risk factors, and to identify worker groups with an increased vulnerability for low back pain in the United States.

Methods: The data used for this cross-sectional study came from the 2010 National Health Interview Survey, which was designed to collect data on health conditions and related risk factors from the US civilian population. The variance estimation method was used to compute weighted data for prevalence of low back pain. Multivariable logistic regression analyses stratified by sex and age were performed to determine the odds ratios (ORs) and the 95% confidence interval (CI) for low back pain. The examined work-related psychosocial risk factors included work-family imbalance, exposure to a hostile work environment, and job insecurity. Work hours, occupation, and other work organizational factors (nonstandard work arrangements and alternative shifts) were also examined.

Results: The prevalence of self-reported low back pain in the previous 3 months among workers in the United States was 25.7% in 2010. Female or older workers were at increased risk of experiencing low back pain. We found significant associations between low back pain and a set of psychosocial factors, including work-family imbalance (OR 1.27, CI 1.15-1.41), exposure to hostile work (OR 1.39, CI 1.25-1.55), and job insecurity (OR 1.44, CI 1.24-1.67), while controlling for demographic characteristics and other health-related factors. Older workers who had nonstandard work arrangements were more likely to report low back pain. Women who worked 41 to 45 hours per week and younger workers who worked >60 hours per week had an increased risk for low back pain. Workers from several occupation groups, including male health care practitioners, female and younger health care support workers, and female farming, fishing, and forestry workers, had an increased risk of low back pain.

Conclusions: This study linked low back pain to work-family imbalance, exposure to a hostile work environment, job insecurity, long work hours, and certain occupation groups. These factors should be considered by employers, policymakers, and health care practitioners who are concerned about the impact of low back pain in workers.

Keywords: Behavior; Demographic Analysis; Epidemiology; Low Back Pain; Psychology; Workplace.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Low Back Pain / epidemiology*
  • Low Back Pain / etiology
  • Low Back Pain / psychology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Occupational Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Occupational Diseases / etiology
  • Occupational Diseases / psychology*
  • Occupational Stress / complications
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors
  • Stress, Psychological
  • United States
  • Young Adult