People with back problems more likely to have mental health problems too

People with back problems are more likely to report psychological distress and mental disorders than people without back problems, according to new information released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The web-based snapshot on back problems shows that 1 in 11 Australians (1.8 million people) had back problems in 2007–08.

The chronic and pervasive nature of back problems often leads to poorer quality of life, psychological distress, mental disorders and disability.

‘Affective mental disorders, such as depression, are particularly common among people with back problems,’ said AIHW spokesperson Louise York.

‘People with back problems are 2.5 times as likely to report having affective disorders, 1.8 times as likely to report an anxiety disorder and 1.3 times as likely to report a substance use disorder as people without back problems.

‘They are also 1.2 times as likely to report high or very high levels of psychological distress and more likely to rate their health status as fair or poor.’

Back problems can also cause activity limitations. People with back problems were 3.4 times as likely to report some form of limitation in their basic daily activities, including self-care (for example, dressing or toileting) and mobility (for example, getting into and out of a bed, chair or car), compared to those without a back condition.

‘Out of the 44% of people with back problems who also reported activity limitations, about two-thirds reported mild to moderate core limitations, and about one-third reported severe or profound activity limitations,’ Ms York said.

In 2004–05, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians were 25% more likely to report having back problems than non-Indigenous Australians.

The AIHW is a major national agency set up by the Australian Government to provide reliable, regular and relevant information and statistics on Australia's health and welfare.

Canberra, 31 July 2012 2012

Further information: Ms Louise York, AIHW, ph. 02 6244 1271, mob. 0407 915 851