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
The chronic and widespread nature of back problems often lead to poorer quality of life, psychological distress, bodily pain and disability.
Back problems reported on these webpages includes:
Note, back problems that are caused by another condition, such as osteoporosis or osteoarthritis, are not included.
People aged 15 and over with back problems are less likely to perceive their health as excellent than those without the condition according to the 2014–15 National Health Survey (NHS). People with back problems were 2.3 times as likely to rate their health as poor (7.3%) compared to those without back problems (3.2%).
Note: Rates are age-standardised to the Australian population as at 30 June 2001.
Source: AIHW analysis of ABS Microdata: National Health Survey, 2014–15 (Data table).
Overall, people aged 18 and over with back problems were 2.2 times as likely to report very high levels of psychological distress (6.5%) than those without the condition (2.9%).
The experience of pain in people aged 18 and over with back problems is generally towards the moderate to very severe end of the spectrum. People with back problems were twice as likely to report severe (11.6%) and three times as likely to report very severe (3.2%) bodily pain compared with those without the condition (5.4% and 1.0% respectively) according to the 2014–15 NHS.
According to the ABS 2012 Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers (SDAC), 80% of people with disability and back problems experienced core activity limitations compared to 72% of people with disability but no back problems. Of people with disability and back problems, 36% reported severe or profound core activity limitation and 44% reported mild to moderate core activity limitation. This compares to 32% and 40% of people with disability but no back problems.
Source: AIHW analysis of ABS 2009 Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers (Data table).
There was very little difference in workforce participation of for those aged 15–64 with and without back problems, according to the 2014–15 NHS.
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