Attributions, stress, and work-related low back pain

George Byrns, Jacqueline Agnew, Barbara Curbow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Occupational low back pain (LBP) is a major cause of morbidity and cost. Efforts to control LBP are largely unsuccessful, and better understanding of risks is needed, especially psychological factors. The purpose of this research was to assess the association between worker attributions and LBP. Attributing LBP to internal causes may increase the worker's perceived control, whereas external attribution may cause distress. A new model was developed to explore these associations. A cross-sectional design was used in this study of 278 garment workers. Data were gathered by a self-administered questionnaire and through direct observation. Responses to questions on worker attributions of LBP cause and knowledge of back safety were subjected to factor analysis and other psychometric evaluation to develop scales. Six hypotheses were tested using multivariate logistic regression. Workers who scored high in internal attribution were more likely to be knowledgeable of back safety (OR = 3.7, 95% CI = 2.0-6.7). Workers reporting high demand were more likely to report LBP (OR = 2.3, 95% CI = 1.2-4.4). Workers attributing LBP to job tasks were more likely to report LBP (OR = 3.2, 95% CI = 1.5-6.9), and those reporting high supervisor support were less likely to report LBP (OR = 0.23, 95% CI = 0.08-0.66). Workers with annual incomes above $15,000 were more likely to report LBP in the test of both the Demand-Control-Support and Attribution models (OR = 2.8, 95% CI = 1.2-6.9 and OR = 4.1, 95% CI = 1.5-11.1, respectively). While both models appeared to be useful for the study of low back pain, the RL2 of the Demand-Control-Support model equaled only 11.9 percent, whereas the Attribution model equaled 26.2 percent. This study provides evidence that attribution theory is useful in the study of LBP, including in future interventions in the prevention of LBP.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)752-764
Number of pages13
JournalApplied Occupational and Environmental Hygiene
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2002


  • Attributions
  • Garment Workers
  • Low Back Pain
  • Stress
  • Work-Related

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


Dive into the research topics of 'Attributions, stress, and work-related low back pain'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this