Population-based cross-sectional postal survey and interview substudy.Objectives.
To examine the association between socioeconomic status and severe back pain and to determine whether this association can be explained by occupational factors.Summary of Background Data.
Like other disorders, back pain and its consequences are inversely related to indicators of high socioeconomic status.Methods.
The associations between indicators of socioeconomic status and presence or severity of current back pain (no back pain or back pain of low intensity and low disability versus back pain with high intensity and/or high disability) were investigated in a survey among German adults 25 to 74 years of age (n = 2731) and an interview substudy of 770 participants with a recent history of back pain.—Results.
In the survey, educational level was inversely associated with back pain and severe current back pain. Similarly, in the interview substudy, educational level, vocational training, occupational class, household income, and health insurance status were inversely related to severe current back pain. Age-adjusted and gender-adjusted odds ratios were 0.36 (95% confidence interval [CI] 0.25–0.52) for immediate educational level and 0.37 (95% CI 0.18–0.73) for high educational level. Recalled work tasks at the onset of back pain were significant risk factors of severe current back pain (heavy physical work: odds ratio [OR] 1.77, 95% CI 1.06–2.93; work in bent position among males: OR 1.89, 95% CI 1.03–3.46). After adjusting for occupational class or work tasks, the association between educational level and severe current back pain remained unchanged.—Conclusions.
The findings support the hypothesis that severe back pain is less prevalent among adults of higher socioeconomic status. The underlying mechanism could not be explained by differences in self-reported occupational factors.