Background: During adolescence, prevalence of pain and health risk factors such as smoking, alcohol use and poor mental health all rise sharply. The aim of this study was to describe the relationship between back pain and health risk factors in adolescents.
Methods: Cross-sectional data from the Healthy Schools Healthy Futures study, and the Australian Child Wellbeing Project was used, mean age: 14-15 years. Children were stratified according to back pain frequency. Within each strata, the proportion of children that reported drinking alcohol or smoking or that experienced feelings of anxiety or depression was reported. Test-for-trend analyses assessed whether increasing frequency of pain was associated with health risk factors.
Results: Data was collected from ~2500 and 3900 children. Larger proportions of children smoked or drank alcohol within each strata of increasing pain frequency. The trend with anxiety and depression was less clear, although there was a marked difference between the children that reported no pain, and pain more frequently.
Conclusion: Two large, independent samples show adolescents that experience back pain more frequently are also more likely to smoke, drink alcohol and report feelings of anxiety and depression. Pain appears to be part of the picture of general health risk in adolescents.