Cost of low back pain: results from a national register study in Sweden

Cost of low back pain: results from a national register study in Sweden

Gylfi Olafsson, Emma Jonsson, Peter Fritzell, Olle Hägg, Fredrik Borgström

November 2018, Volume 27, Issue 11, pp 2875 - 2881
First Online: 28 August 2018


To estimate the societal costs of low back pain with/without radiating leg pain (LBP). LBP is a major burden in terms of both personal suffering and societal costs.


Patients visiting healthcare providers with a LBP-diagnosis in the Western region of Sweden (Västra Götaland) in 2008–2011 were identified in national registers and an administrative patient database. Direct healthcare costs and indirect costs in terms of sick leave and early retirement were summarized over time periods called LBP episodes, starting with a LBP-related healthcare contact or work absence due to LBP and ended when 6 months had elapsed without any LBP-related healthcare contact or work absence.


The mean total cost per episode was estimated at €2753 with a mean duration of 51 days. There was a sharp increase in total cost the first month after the LBP episode started and a marked decrease from the second month. Total cost leveled off at a higher level during the 2 years after episode start compared with the 2 years before episode start. The total economic burden of LBP in Sweden including all LBP episodes that started in 2011 was estimated at €740 million, or €78 per capita.


LBP has an apparent impact on the overall resource use and work loss. The results indicate that there is a high short-term cost increase at the beginning of an LBP episode, but also that the costs decrease in the long term after the LBP symptoms have come to clinical attention.

Graphical abstract

These slides can be retrieved under Electronic Supplementary Material.[Figure not available: see fulltext.]