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The Effects of Shift Work and Interaction Between Shift Work and Overweight/Obesity on Low Back Pain in Nurses: Results From a Longitudinal Study

Zhao, Isabella RN, BN, BN (Hons I), PhD; Bogossian, Fiona RN, DipAppSci, BAppSci, MPH, PhD, MACMI; Turner, Catherine RN, BA, Grad Dip Ed, MN, PhD

Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine: July 2012 - Volume 54 - Issue 7 - p 820–825
doi: 10.1097/JOM.0b013e3182572e6a
Original Articles

Objective: To examine whether shift work is a risk factor for low back pain (LBP) and the interaction effects of shift work and overweight/obesity on LBP over time among nurses.

Methods: A longitudinal study over 2 years. Measurements included reported LBP, shift work status, and selected potential confounders.

Results: Among 928 LBP-free nurses at baseline, 319 (34.4%) developed LBP over 2 years. After adjusting for confounders, shift workers were 1.15 times more likely to develop LBP (adjusted odds ratio [aOR], 1.15; 95% confidence interval, 1.05 to 1.40; P = 0.03). The interaction analysis showed that overweight/obese shift workers were more likely to develop LBP than day workers (overweight: aOR, 1.23 vs aOR, 1.03, respectively; obesity: aOR, 1.34 vs aOR, 1.10, respectively).

Conclusions: Our findings suggest that shift workers are at a higher risk of developing LBP over time, especially those who are overweight/obese.

From the School of Nursing and Midwifery, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia.

Address correspondence to: Isabella Zhao, RN, BN, BN (Hons I), PhD, School of Nursing and Midwifery, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia (

This project is supported by grants from the Australian Research Council (LP0562102, SR0566924), Australian National Health and Medical Research Council (2005002108), and New Zealand Health Research Council (456163). Industry Partners providing additional funding include Queensland Health, the South Australian Department of Health, Injury Prevention and Control Australia (Pty Ltd), Nursing Council of New Zealand, and the Macquarie Bank Foundation.

Industry partners providing in-kind support for the project include Queensland Nursing Council, Nurses and Midwives Board of New South Wales, Nurses Board of Tasmania, Nurses Board of Western Australia, Nurses Board of the Australian Capital Territory, and the Nursing Council of New Zealand. Corporate sponsors include Virgin Blue, Virgin Atlantic, and MessageNet.

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

©2012The American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine