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Extended report
The global burden of occupationally related low back pain: estimates from the Global Burden of Disease 2010 study
  1. T Driscoll1,
  2. G Jacklyn1,
  3. J Orchard1,
  4. E Passmore2,
  5. T Vos3,
  6. G Freedman3,
  7. S Lim3,
  8. L Punnett4
  1. 1Sydney School of Public Health, University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  2. 2School of Public Health and Community Medicine, University of New South Wales, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  3. 3Institute of Health Metrics, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, USA
  4. 4Department of Work Environment, University of Massachusetts Lowell, Lowell, Massachusetts, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Tim Driscoll, Sydney School of Public Health, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia; tim.driscoll{at}


Objectives The study was part of the Global Burden of Disease 2010 study and aimed to quantify the burden arising from low back pain (LBP) due to occupational exposure to ergonomic risk factors.

Methods Exposure prevalence was based on occupation distribution; estimates of relative risk came from a meta-analysis of relevant published literature. The work-related burden was estimated as disability-adjusted life years (DALYs). Estimates were made for each of 21 world regions and 187 countries, separately for 1990 and 2010 using consistent methods.

Results Worldwide, LBP arising from ergonomic exposures at work was estimated to cause 21.7 million DALYs in 2010. The overall population attributable fraction was 26%, varying considerably with age, sex and region. 62% of LBP DALYs were in males—the largest numbers were in persons aged 35–55 years. The highest relative risk (3.7) was in the agricultural sector. 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; rates dropped by 14% over the same period.

Conclusions LBP arising from ergonomic exposures at work is an important cause of disability. There is a need for improved information on exposure distributions and relative risks, particularly in developing countries.

  • LBP
  • ergonomic
  • occupation
  • burden

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