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Effect of back problems on healthcare utilization and costs in Ontario, Canada: a population-based matched cohort study


We assessed the effect of back problems on healthcare utilization and costs in a population-based sample of adults from a single-payer health system in Ontario. We conducted a population-based cohort study of Ontario respondents aged ≥18 years of the Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS) from 2003 to 2012. The CCHS data were individually linked to health administrative data to measure healthcare utilization and costs up to 2018. We propensity score-matched (hard matched on sex) adults with self-reported back problems to those without back problems, accounting for sociodemographic, health-related, and behavioural factors. We evaluated cause-specific and all-cause healthcare utilization and costs adjusted to 2018 Canadian dollars using negative binomial and linear (log transformed) regression models. After propensity score matching, we identified 36,806 pairs (women: 21,054 pairs; men: 15,752 pairs) of CCHS respondents with and without back problems (mean age 51 years, standard deviation = 18). Compared with propensity score matched adults without back problems, adults with back problems had 2 times the rate of cause-specific visits (rate ratio [RR]women 2.06, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.88-2.25; RRmen 2.32, 95% CI 2.04-2.64), slightly more all-cause physician visits (RRwomen 1.12, 95% CI 1.09-1.16; RRmen 1.10, 95% CI 1.05-1.14), and 1.2 times the costs (women: 1.21, 95% CI 1.16-1.27; men: 1.16, 95% CI 1.09-1.23). Incremental annual per-person costs were higher in adults with back problems than those without back problems (women: $395, 95% CI $281-$509; men: $196, 95% CI $94-$300). This corresponded to $532 million for women and $227 million for men (adjusted to 2018 Canadian dollars) annually in Ontario given the high prevalence of back problems. Given the high health system burden, new strategies to effectively prevent and treat back problems and thus potentially reduce the long-term costs are warranted.



.Wong JJ, Côté P, Tricco AC, Watson T, Rosella LC. Pain. 2021; 162(10):2521-31. Epub 2021 Oct 1.

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