Longitudinal profiles of back pain across adulthood and their relationship with childhood factors: evidence from the 1946 British birth cohort

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Abstract

This study aimed to (1) characterise long-term profiles of back pain across adulthood and (2) examine whether childhood risk factors were associated with these profiles, using data from 3271 participants in the Medical Research Council National Survey of Health and Development. A longitudinal latent class analysis was conducted on binary outcomes of back pain at ages 31, 36, 43, 53, 60 to 64, and 68 years. Multinomial logistic regression models were used to examine associations between selected childhood risk factors and class membership; adjusted for sex, adult body size, health status and behaviours, socioeconomic position, and family history of back pain. Four profiles of back pain were identified: no or occasional pain (57.7%), early-adulthood only (16.1%), mid-adulthood onset (16.9%), and persistent (9.4%). The “no or occasional” profile was treated as the referent category in subsequent analyses. After adjustment, taller height at age 7 years was associated with a higher likelihood of early-adulthood only (relative risk ratio per 1 SD increase in height = 1.31 [95% confidence interval: 1.05-1.65]) and persistent pain (relative risk ratio = 1.33 [95% confidence interval: 1.01-1.74]) in women (P for sex interaction = 0.01). Factors associated with an increased risk of persistent pain in both sexes were abdominal pain, poorest care in childhood, and poorer maternal health. Abdominal pain and poorest housing quality were also associated with an increased likelihood of mid-adulthood onset pain. These findings suggest that there are different long-term profiles of back pain, each of which is associated with different early life risk factors. This highlights the potential importance of early life interventions for the prevention and management of back pain.

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