back painA study from the University of Sydney finds that lower back pain (LBP) is a significant cause of work-related disability. It affected 26 percent of the global population in 2010, and varied considerably with age, gender and region.

Working as part of the Global Burden of Disease 2010 study, researchers aimed to quantify the burden arising from LBP due to occupational exposure and ergonomic risk factors, taking a look at 21 regions of the world and 187 individual countries. The work-related burden was estimated as disability-adjusted life years (DALYs).

Among their findings:

  • The highest risk for LBP is in the agricultural sector
  • 62% of LBP DALYs were in males—the largest numbers were in persons aged 35–55?years
  • LBP arising from ergonomic exposures at work was estimated to cause 21.7 million DALYs in 2010
  • The largest number of DALYs occurred in East Asia and South Asia, but on a per capita basis the biggest burden was in Oceania
  • There was a 22% increase in overall LBP DALYs arising from occupational exposures between 1990 and 2010 due to population growth


“There is a need for improved information on exposure distributions and relative risks, particularly in developing countries,” wrote the study’s authors.