Mental illness more common in those with back problems

31 Jul 2012

Australians living with back problems are 2.5 times more likely to experience a depressive disorder, than the wider population, according to a  released today by the government’s Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

One in 11 Australians had back problems in 2007-08, which related to the bones, joints, connective tissue, muscles and nerves of the back. This amounts to 1.8 million people.

Pain is the key symptom of back problems, with past studies estimating 86% of sufferers experienced pain one day a week and 14% lived with persistent pain.

According to today’s report, people with back problems were 1.8 times as likely to report an anxiety disorder than the wider population. They were also 1.3 times more likely to report a substance use disorder and 2.5 times more likely to experience an affective disorder, such as depression, bipolar affective disorder and mood disorders.

“Back problems are a common reason for pain among younger and middle-aged adults, but they can start early in life—between ages eight and ten,” the report said. Estimates indicate 70% to 90% of people suffer from lower back pain at some point in their lives.

Back problems can be caused by injury, poor posture, some genetic conditions and diseases such as osteoarthritis. Other factors such as age, fitness levels, weight and type of work may also increase the risk.

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Image: Flickr / Diamondduste

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