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Back problems are a range of conditions related to the bones, joints, connective tissue, muscles and nerves of the back. Back problems are a significant cause of disability and lost productivity.
1 in 6 Australians (16%) reported back problems in 2014–15. That’s 3.7 million people
3rd leading cause of disease burden in Australia in 2011
4 in 5 people with disability and back problems had difficulty with mobility, communication or self-care in 2012
An estimated 3.7 million Australians (16.2% of the total population) report having back problems, based on self-reported data from the 2014–15 National Health Survey. Of these, around 2 million people (10.6% of the total population) report also having one or more of the following selected chronic conditions:
These 7 chronic conditions have been selected because they are common, pose significant health problems, have been the focus of ongoing national surveillance efforts, and action can be taken to prevent their occurrence.
Nearly two-thirds (65.4%) of people with back problems report having at least one other of these chronic conditions. Nearly one-third (30.5%) report one other chronic condition, 18.7% report two, and 16.2% three or more other chronic conditions.
Note: The 7 other selected chronic conditions are CVD, mental health problems, arthritis, asthma, COPD, diabetes and cancer.
Source: ABS National Health Survey, 2014–15 (see Data table).
Figure 2 shows that among people with back problems:
Note: These components do not total 100% as one person may have more than one comorbidity.
The prevalence of chronic conditions in people with back problems varies with age.
In younger people (aged 0–44) with back problems:
In younger people (aged 0–44) with back problems, compared to those without back problems, rates were:
In people aged 45–64 with back problems:
In people aged 45–64 with back problems, compared to those without back problems, rates were 2 times as high for arthritis, mental health problems, and COPD.
The difference in rates was not significant for asthma and diabetes.
In older people aged 65 and over with back problems:
In older people aged 65 and over with back problems, compared to those without back problems, rates were:
The difference in rates was not significant for CVD and diabetes.
The impact of increasing age on the prevalence of age-related conditions (arthritis, CVD, diabetes, COPD, and cancer) is similar for people with back problems and people without back problems.
The prevalence of other conditions is not affected by age.
Shows the lower and upper limits of confidence interval. We can be 95% confident that the true value is within this interval.
Note: Components may not add to totals as one person may have more than one comorbidity.
Source: ABS National Health Survey, 2014–15.
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