Epidemiology of back pain in older adults: prevalence and risk factors for back pain onset.

14 Jun 2019

OBJECTIVES: To determine the prevalence of disabling and non-disabling back pain across age in older adults, and identify risk factors for back pain onset in this age group. METHODS: Participants aged ≥ 75 years answered interviewer-administered questions on back pain as part of a prospective cohort study [Cambridge City over-75s Cohort Study (CC75C)]. Descriptive analyses of data from two surveys, 1988-89 and 1992-93, estimated prevalence and new onset of back pain. Relative risks (RRs) and 95% CIs were estimated using Poisson regression, adjusted for age and gender. RESULTS: Prevalence of disabling and non-disabling back pain was 6 and 23%, respectively. While prevalence of non-disabling back pain did not vary significantly across age (χ²trend : 0.90; P = 0.34), the prevalence of disabling back pain increased with age (χ²trend : 4.02; P = 0.04). New-onset disabling and non-disabling back pain at follow-up was 15 and 5%, respectively. Risk factors found to predict back pain onset at follow-up were: poor self-rated health (RR 3.8; 95% CI 1.8, 8.0); depressive symptoms (RR 2.2; 95% CI 1.3, 3.7); use of health or social services (RR 1.7; 95% CI 1.1, 2.7); and previous back pain (RR 2.1; 95% CI 1.2-3.5). From these, poor self-rated health, previous back pain and depressive symptoms were found to be independent predictors of pain onset. Markers of social networks were not associated with the reporting of back pain onset. Conclusion. The risk of disabling back pain rises in older age. Older adults with poor self-rated health, depressive symptoms, increased use of health and social services and a previous episode of back pain are at greater risk of reporting future back pain onset.