OBJECTIVE--To test the hypothesis that reports of back pain in a working population are associated with parenthood. METHODS--A questionnaire survey of back pain in municipal fire fighters and police officers in a municipality in Ontario, Canada. The questionnaire was distributed to current employees of fire and police departments. The survey was completed by 129 fire fighters (68% of the active force) and 346 police officers (74% of the force). RESULTS--36% of the respondents complained of a back problem. The prevalence increased from 13% among men aged 19 to 28 to 47% among men aged 49 to 59. The complaint was more common among firefighters (42%) than among police officers (33%). In a logistic regression analysis, back problems were significantly associated with the duration of employment, cigarette smoking, and the number of children. CONCLUSIONS--Back pain is a multifactorial problem with significant impact on the working population. This survey has found that parenthood, a risk factor not previously described among men, is associated with self reported back pain. The mechanism presumably involves lifting of children or recreational factors. Fatherhood seems to be a confounder that should be controlled for in studies of occupational causes of back pain.
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