Back Pain in the German Adult Population: Prevalence, Severity, and Sociodemographic Correlates in a Multiregional Survey

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Abstract

Study Design.

A population-based cross-sectional multiregion postal survey.

Objective.

To provide a descriptive epidemiology of the prevalence and severity of back pain in German adults and to analyze sociodemographic correlates for disabling back pain within and across regions.

Summary of Background Data.

Back pain is a leading health problem in Germany. However, comprehensive population-based evidence on the severity of back pain is still fragmentary for this country. Despite earlier findings concerning large prevalence differences across regions, systematic explanations remain to be ascertained.

Methods.

Questionnaire data were collected for 9263 subjects in 5 German cities and regions (population-based random samples, postal questionnaire). Point, 1-year, and lifetime prevalence were assessed using direct questions, and graded back pain was determined using the Graded Chronic Pain Scale. Poststratification was applied to adjust for cross-regional sociodemographic differences.

Results.

Point-prevalence was 37.1%, 1-year prevalence 76.0%, and lifetime prevalence 85.5%. A substantial minority had severe (Grade II, 8.0%) or disabling back pain (Grade III–IV, 11.2%). Subjects with a low educational level reported substantially more disabling back pain. This variable was an important predictor for large cross-regional differences in the burden of back pain.

Conclusion.

Back pain is a highly prevalent condition in Germany. Disabling back pain in this country may be regarded as part of a social disadvantage syndrome. Educational level should receive greater attention in future cross-regional comparisons of back pain.

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