Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2019. Back problems. Cat. no. PHE 231. Canberra: AIHW. Viewed 28 February 2020, https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/chronic-musculoskeletal-conditions/back-problems
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2019). Back problems. Retrieved from https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/chronic-musculoskeletal-conditions/back-problems
Back problems. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 30 August 2019, https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/chronic-musculoskeletal-conditions/back-problems
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Back problems [Internet]. Canberra: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2019 [cited 2020 Feb. 28]. Available from: https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/chronic-musculoskeletal-conditions/back-problems
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) 2019, Back problems, viewed 28 February 2020, https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/chronic-musculoskeletal-conditions/back-problems
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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.
Almost 2 in 5 (38%) people with back problems said pain "moderately" interfered with daily activities in 2017–18
2nd leading cause of disease burden overall in Australia 2015, accounting for 4.1% of Australia’s total disease burden
1 in 6 Australians (16%) had back problems in 2017–18. That’s 4.0 million people
People with back problems often have other chronic diseases and long-term conditions. These are referred to as 'comorbidities'—two or more health problems occurring at the same time. Comorbidities often share common risk factors, and are increasingly seen as acting together to determine the health status of individuals.
As people age, they are more likely to develop more than one chronic condition. Various studies show that cardiovascular diseases [1, 2], arthritis , mental health problems [4, 5] and respiratory conditions  are common comorbidities with back problems.
In this context, 'back problems' include:
Note, if back problems are caused by another condition such as osteoporosis or osteoarthritis they will be classified as that condition and not included here. As such, the true prevalence of back problems presented here may be an underestimate.
This information is based on self-reported data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2017–18 National Health Survey (NHS), and was last updated in March 2019.
An estimated 2.5 million Australians aged 45 and over have back problems, based on self-reported data from the 2017–18 National Health Survey. Of these, almost 3 in 4 of those people (74% of the total population of people with back problems) report also having one or more of the following selected chronic conditions (Figure 1):
These 9 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.
In addition, more than 2 in 5 (46%) have two or more other chronic conditions (Figure 1).
Note: the 9 other selected chronic conditions are heart, stroke and vascular disease, asthma, arthritis, cancer, COPD, diabetes, kidney disease, mental and behavioural conditions, and osteoporosis.
Source: AIHW analysis of ABS 2019  (Data table).
Figure 2 shows that among people aged 45 years and over with back problems:
These proportions remained similar even after accounting for difference in the age structure of the populations (Table 5.2).
Note: These components do not total 100% as one person may have more than one comorbidity.
The comorbidity data presented here are based on self-reported data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics National Health Survey (NHS). When interpreting self-reported data, it is important to recognise that because we rely on respondents providing accurate information, the outputs may not always be a true reflection of the situation.
In the 2017–18 NHS, the number and proportion of persons with long-term health conditions is presented as those who have 'a current medical condition which has lasted, or is expected to last, for 6 months or more, unless otherwise stated' . For the conditions arthritis, asthma, cancer, heart, stroke and vascular disease (HSVD), diabetes, kidney disease and mental and behavioural conditions, the estimates are based on: persons who reported having been told by a doctor or nurse that they had the condition/s and whether they reported that their condition was current and long-term; that is, their condition was current at the time of interview and had lasted, or was expected to last, 6 months or more.
For HSVD and diabetes, estimates also included persons who reported they had had the conditions, but that these conditions were not current and long-term at the time of interview.
The conditions data collected for back problems and COPD are 'as reported' by respondents and do not necessarily represent conditions as medically diagnosed. However, as the data relate to conditions which had lasted, or were expected to last, for six months or more, there is considered to be a reasonable likelihood that medical diagnoses would have been made in most cases. The degree to which conditions have been medically diagnosed is likely to differ across condition types. See the National Health Survey: Users’ Guide, 2017─18  for more information.
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