Global low back pain prevalence and years lived with disability from 1990 to 2017: estimates from the Global Burden of Disease Study 2017

Ann Transl Med. 2020 Mar;8(6):299. doi: 10.21037/atm.2020.02.175.


Background: Low back pain (LBP) is a common musculoskeletal problem globally. Updating the prevalence and burden of LBP is important for researchers and policy makers. This paper presents, compares and contextualizes the global prevalence and years lived with disability (YLDs) of LBP by age, sex and region, from 1990 to 2017.

Methods: Data were extracted from the GBD (the Global Burden of Disease, Injuries, and Risk Factors Study) 2017 Study. Age, sex and region-specific analyses were conducted to estimate the global prevalence and YLDs of LBP, with the uncertainty intervals (UIs).

Results: The age-standardized point prevalence of LBP was 8.20% (95% UI: 7.31-9.10%) in 1990 and decreased slightly to 7.50% (95% UI: 6.75-8.27%) in 2017. The prevalent numbers of people with LBP at any one point in time in 1990 was 377.5 million, and this increased to 577.0 million in 2017. Age-standardized prevalence of LBP was higher in females than males. LBP prevalence increased with age, and peaked around the ages of 80 to 89 years, and then decreased slightly. Global YLDs were 42.5 million (95% UI: 30.2 million-57.2 million) in 1990 and increased by 52.7% to 64.9 million (95% UI: 46.5 million-87.4 million) in 2017. YLDs were also higher in females than males and increased initially with age; they peaked at 35-39 years of age in 1990, before decreasing, whereas in 2017, they peaked at 45-49 years of age, before decreasing. Western Europe had the highest number of LBP YLDs.

Conclusions: Globally, LBP is the leading global cause of YLDs. Greater attention is urgently needed to mitigate this increasing burden and the impact it is having on health and social systems.

Keywords: Global Burden of Disease Study; Low back pain (LBP); prevalence; years lived with disability (YLDs).