Prevalence and work-related risk factors for reduced activities and absenteeism due to low back symptoms

Baiduri Widanarko, Stephen Legg, Mark Stevenson, Jason Devereux, Amanda Eng, Andrea 't Mannetje, Soo Cheng, Neil Pearce

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45 Citations (Scopus)


Although quite a lot is known about the risk factors for low back symptoms (LBS), less is known about the risk factors for the consequences of LBS. A sample of 3003 men and women randomly selected from the New Zealand Electoral Roll, were interviewed by telephone about self reported physical, psychosocial, organizational, environmental factors and the consequences of LBS (i.e. self-reported reduced activities and absenteeism). The 12-month period prevalence of reduced activities and absenteeism were 18% and 9%, respectively. Lifting (OR 1.79 95% CI 1.16-2.77) increased the risk of reduced activities. Working in awkward/tiring positions (OR 2.11 95% CI 1.20-3.70) and in a cold/damp environment (OR 2.18 95% CI 1.11-4.28) increased the risk of absenteeism. Among those with LBS, reduced activities increased with working in a hot/warm environment (OR 2.14 95% CI 1.22-3.76) and absenteeism was increased with work in awkward/tiring positions (OR 2.06 95% CI 1.13-3.77), tight deadlines (OR 1.89 95% CI 1.02-3.50), and a hot/warm environment (OR 3.35 95% CI 1.68-6.68). Interventions to reduce the consequences of LBS should aim to reduce awkward/tiring positions, lifting and work in a cold/damp environment. For individuals with LBS, additional focus should be to reduce tight deadlines, and work in hot/warm environments.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)727-737
Number of pages11
JournalApplied Ergonomics
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2012


  • Back pain
  • Consequences
  • Disability
  • Environment
  • Nordic musculoskeletal questionnaire


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