Background: The aim of this review was to synthesize the evidence on the potential relationship between psychosocial work factors from the Areas of Worklife (AW) model (workload, job control, social support, reward, fairness, and values) and chronic low back pain (CLBP; unspecific pain in the lumbar region lasting 3 months or longer).
Methods: We conducted a systematic literature search of studies in Medline, PsycINFO, Web of Science, and CINAHL (1987 to 2018). Three authors independently assessed eligibility and quality of studies. In this meta-analysis, we pooled studies' effect sizes using a random-effects model approach and report sample size weighted mean Odds Ratios (ORs).
Results: Data from 18 studies (N = 19,572) was included in the analyses. We found no studies investigating associations between fairness or values and CLBP. CLBP was significantly positively related to workload (OR = 1.32) and significantly negatively related to overall job control (OR = 0.81), decision authority (OR = 0.72), and two measures of social support (ORs = 0.75 to 0.78), even in prospective studies. Skill discretion and reward did not significantly relate to CLBP. Moderation analyses revealed several variables (e.g., exposure time, mean age and sex) affecting these relationships.
Conclusions: Our results support employees' workload, job control, and social support as predictors of CLBP. In this line, these work factors should be considered when developing programs to prevent chronic low back pain. Future studies should apply measures of CLBP that are more precise, and investigate the full areas of work life (AW) factors in combination.
Keywords: Areas of work life; Chronic low back pain; Job control; Social support; Workload.