European Spine Journal

, Volume 21, Issue 8, pp 1528–1535 | Cite as

Pre-injury health-related factors in relation to self-reported whiplash: longitudinal data from the HUNT study, Norway

  • Hanne Gro Wenzel
  • Ottar Vasseljen
  • Arnstein Mykletun
  • Tom Ivar Lund Nilsen
Original Article



To examine if pre-injury health-related factors are associated with the subsequent report of whiplash, and more specifically, both whiplash and neck pain.


Longitudinal population study of 40,751 persons participating in two consecutive health surveys with 11 years interval. We used logistic regression to estimate odds ratio (OR) for reporting whiplash or whiplash with neck pain lasting at least 3 months last year, related to pre-injury health as indicated by subjective health, mental and physical impairment, use of health services, and use of medication. All associations were adjusted for socio-demographic factors.


The OR for reporting whiplash was increased in people reporting poor health at baseline. The ORs varied from 1.47 (95% CI 1.13–1.91) in people visiting a general practitioner (GP) last year to 3.07 (95% CI 2.00–4.73) in people who reported poor subjective health. The OR associated with physical impairment and mental impairment was 2.69 (95% CI 1.75–4.14) and 2.49 (95% CI 1.31–4.74), respectively. Analysis of reporting both whiplash and neck pain gave somewhat stronger association, with ORs varying from 1.50 (95% CI 1.07–2.09) in people visiting a GP last year to 5.70 (95% CI 3.18–10.23) in people reporting poor subjective health. Physical impairment was associated with an OR of 3.48 (95% CI 2.12–5.69) and mental impairment with an OR of 3.02 (95% CI 1.46–6.22).


Impaired self-reported pre-injury health was strongly associated with the reporting of a whiplash trauma, especially in conjunction with neck pain. This may indicate that individuals have, already before the trauma, adopted an illness role or behaviour which is extended into and influence the report of a whiplash injury. The finding is in support of a functional somatic disorder model for whiplash.


Whiplash Whiplash and neck pain Longitudinal study Population study Pre-injury health 



AM was funded by The Norwegian Research Council. No further support was received. The HUNT study is a collaboration between the HUNT Research Centre, Faculty of Medicine, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, The Norwegian Institute of Public Health, and Nord-Trøndelag County Council.

Conflict of interest



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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hanne Gro Wenzel
    • 1
    • 2
  • Ottar Vasseljen
    • 1
  • Arnstein Mykletun
    • 3
    • 4
  • Tom Ivar Lund Nilsen
    • 5
  1. 1.Department of Public Health and General PracticeFaculty of Medicine, Norwegian University of Science and TechnologyTrondheimNorway
  2. 2.Division of Psychiatry, Orkdal DepartmentSt Olav University HospitalOrkangerNorway
  3. 3.Research Centre for Health Promotion, Faculty of PsychologyUniversity of BergenBergenNorway
  4. 4.Division of Mental HealthNorwegian Institute of Public HealthOsloNorway
  5. 5.Department of Human Movement ScienceNorwegian University of Science and TechnologyTrondheimNorway

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