Back complaints in the elders in Brazil and the Netherlands: a cross-sectional comparison

Fabianna R. Jesus-Moraleida*, Paulo H. Ferreira, Manuela L. Ferreira, Juscelio P. Silva, Christopher G. Maher, Wendy T. M. Enthoven, Sita M. A. Bierma-Zeinstra, Bart W. Koes, Pim A. J. Luijsterburg, Leani S.M. Pereira

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


Background: although back pain is most prevalent in older adults, there is a paucity of studies investigating back pain in older people. Our objective was to characterize and compare Brazilian and Dutch older adults presenting to primary care with a new episode of back pain. We also aimed to investigate whether socio-demographic characteristics were associated with pain severity and disability. Methods: we sourced data on 602 Brazilian and 675 Dutch participants aged ≥55 years with a new episode of back pain from the Back Complaints in the Elders consortium. We analyzed country differences in participants' characteristics, and associations between socio-demographic/clinical characteristics and pain severity and pain-related disability. Results: the two populations differed in most characteristics. More Dutch participants were smokers, heavy drinkers, and reported back stiffness. More Brazilian participants were less educated, had higher prevalence of comorbidities; higher levels of pain intensity, disability and psychological distress. When controlling for the effect of country, being female and having altered quality of sleep were associated with higher pain intensity. Altered quality of sleep, having two or more comorbidities and physical inactivity were associated with higher disability. Higher educational levels were negatively associated with both pain and disability outcomes. Conclusions: back pain is disabling in the older population. Our country comparison has shown that country of residence is an important determinant of higher disability and pain in older people with back pain. Irrespective of country, women with poor sleep quality, comorbidities, low education and who are physically inactive report more severe symptoms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)476-481
Number of pages6
JournalAge and Ageing
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • pain
  • epidemiology
  • aged
  • back pain
  • older people


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