European Spine Journal

, Volume 27, Issue 5, pp 1157–1165 | Cite as

The impact of low back pain on health-related quality of life in old age: results from a survey of a large sample of Swiss elders living in the community

  • C. Ludwig
  • C. Luthy
  • A. F. Allaz
  • F. R. Herrmann
  • C. Cedraschi
Original Article



The present study aims at investigating the effects of low back pain (LBP), i.e., type of symptoms, activity limitations, frequency, duration, and severity on health-related quality of life (HRQoL) in a sample of 707 community-dwelling men and women aged ≥ 65 years living in Switzerland.


The study is part of a larger survey conducted in Switzerland on a sample of older adults selected randomly from population records, stratified by age and sex. The Standardized Back Pain Definition was used to investigate LBP, and HRQoL was assessed by means of the EQ-5D, including Health Utility Index (HUI) measures.


For more than half of the sufferers, pain was chronic, occurred most days or every day and induced activity limitations. One-third of the sufferers reported sciatica symptoms. Individuals reporting every day pain, severe pain and more than 3 years since the last episode without pain lost nearly 10 points of HRQoL. Amongst the dimension of HRQoL, Mobility was the most affected by LBP.


These results provide further insight into the impact of qualitative aspects of LBP and in particular the importance of radiating leg pain and pain frequency and duration. While LBP-related activity limitations had little impact on both self-rated overall health and HUI, radiating leg pain and pain frequency and duration were associated with significantly decreased scores on both dimensions.


Low back pain Health-related quality of life Older adults Community dwelling Sciatica 



The data were made available by the Individual Project no. 13 of the National Centre of Competence in Research LIVES (SNF no. 125770) and the Sinergia Project (SNF No. CRSII1-129922), both funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation. The authors wish to acknowledge Pro Senectute Schweiz for its financial and logistic support as well as the following local authorities and institutions for their logistic support: for Canton Geneva, The Département de la solidarité et de l’emploi and the Département des affaires régionales, de l’économie et de la santé du Canton de Genève; for Canton Wallis, The Département de la securité, des affaires sociales et de l’intégration and the Département des finances, des institutions et de la santé de l’Etat du Valais; for Canton Ticino: The Dipartimento della sanità e della socialità del Cantone Ticino.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

None of the authors has any potential conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Health Sciences - GenevaUniversity of Applied Sciences and Arts of Western SwitzerlandGenevaSwitzerland
  2. 2.Division of General Medical Rehabilitation, Geneva University HospitalsUniversity of GenevaGenevaSwitzerland
  3. 3.Division of Geriatrics, Geneva University HospitalsUniversity of GenevaGenevaSwitzerland
  4. 4.Division of Clinical Pharmacology and Toxicology, Multidisciplinary Pain Centre, Geneva University HospitalsUniversity of GenevaGenevaSwitzerland

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