Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2019. Back problems. Cat. no. PHE 231. Canberra: AIHW. Viewed 18 September 2019, 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 2019 Sep. 18]. Available from: https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/chronic-musculoskeletal-conditions/back-problems
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) 2019, Back problems, viewed 18 September 2019, 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.
1 in 6 Australians (16%) had back problems in 2017–18. That’s 4.0 million people
2nd leading cause of disease burden overall in Australia 2015, accounting for 4.1% of Australia’s total disease burden
Almost 2 in 5 (38%) people with back problems said pain "moderately" interfered with daily activities in 2017–18
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 include:
Note, back problems that are caused by another condition, such as osteoporosis or osteoarthritis, are not included.
Back pain and problems is a large contributor to illness, pain, and disability in Australia. Based on data from the Australian Burden of Disease Study 2015, back pain and problems were the second leading cause of burden overall, accounting for 4.1% of Australia’s total disease burden.
Back pain and problems were the third leading cause of disease burden for both males and females, representing 3.9% and 4.4% of total disease burden, respectively .
Among males, back pain and problems is the second leading cause of disease burden for those aged 25–44 and 45–54 and the third leading cause for those aged 55–64. Among females, it was the leading cause for those aged 45–54 and the second leading cause for those aged 25–44.
Almost all of the burden caused by back pain and problems was non-fatal burden, where back pain and problems was the number one leading cause of non-fatal disease burden among males, females and overall, accounting for 8.1% of total non-fatal disease burden in Australia.
Additionally, in 2015–16, Back pain and problems cost the Australian health system an estimated $2.8 billion, representing 23% of disease expenditure on Musculoskeletal conditions and 2.4% of total health expenditure .
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 2017–18 National Health Survey (NHS). After adjusting for age, people with back problems were 2.4 times as likely to rate their health as poor (6.5%) compared to with those without back problems (2.7%) (Figure 1).
Note: Rates are age-standardised to the Australian population as at 30 June 2001.
Source: AIHW analysis of ABS Microdata: National Health Survey, 2019  (Data table).
Overall, people aged 18 and over with back problems were 2.5 times as likely to report experience very high levels of psychological distress (8.1%) than those without the condition (3.2%) after adjusting for age (Figure 2).
a. Psychological distress is measured using the Kessler Psychological Distress Scale (K10), which involves 10 questions about negative emotional states experienced in the previous 4 weeks. The scores are grouped into Low: K10 score 10–15, Moderate: 16–21, High: 22–29, Very high: 30–50.
Source: AIHW analysis of ABS Microdata: National Health Survey, 2014–15 (Data table).
People with back problems were 2 times as likely to experience severe (11%) and very severe (3.1%) bodily pain compared with those without the condition (4.6% and 1.0%, respectively) according to self-reported data from the 2017–18 NHS (Figure 3).
a. Bodily pain experienced in the 4 weeks prior to interview.
Source: AIHW analysis of (ABS 2019)  (Data table).
In 2017–18, 38% of people with back problems said that bodily pain interfered with their daily activities at least 'moderately', compared with 17% of people without back problems. Of people with back problems, 5.8% said bodily pain had an 'extreme' impact on their activity, compared with 2.4% of people without back problems (Figure 4).
According to self-reported data from the 2017–18 NHS, people aged 15–64 with back problems are less likely to be employed (73%) compared with people without back problems (77%) and more likely to not be in the labour force (22% compared with 19%). There is little difference in the proportion of people who were unemployed with (5%) and without (4%) back problems (Figure 5).
Source: AIHW analysis of ABS 2019  (Data table).
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