IRSST - Institut de recherche Robert-Sauvé en santé et en sécurité du travail

The determinants of chronic disability: longitudinal prospective study of disabled low back pain workers


Long-term disability due to certain types of low back pain can have major human and financial impacts. In order to develop knowledge in this field and to help the people involved, the authors conducted a study according to three questions: What are the factors that affect the development of disability? Do companies’ health and safety practices and policies have an impact in this regard? Is there a relationship between the biological stress response and the employment situation?
The study, carried out with the collaboration of 439 people, shows that exposure to stressors, combined with a belief that physical activity impedes healing, contributes to emotional distress and the avoidance of physical activity, two factors that promote disability. A negative perception of occupational health and safety (OHS) organizational practices and policies may be associated with fears and beliefs about the work, such as returning to work and becoming re-injured. Finally, the inability to return to work could be associated with biological dysfunction, namely a reduction in the secretion of some hormones used for dealing with the stressful events. However, this latter result will have to be confirmed in future studies so that its scope can be better assessed.
The authors believe that the use of theoretical models, including the one proposed in this study, allows the dynamics of the development of disability to be better understood, and therefore, better targeted interventions to be established. The results obtained should lead to the development of more exhaustive models that would integrate the work environments’ ergonomic and psychosocial characteristics as well as the biological stress response.

Additional Information

Type: Project
Number: 0099-1290
Status: Completed
Year of completion: 2006
Research Field: Occupational Rehabilitation
  • Manon Truchon (IRSST)
  • Lise Fillion (Université Laval)
  • Ginette Truchon (IRSST)
  • Clermont Dionne (Université Laval)
  • A. Bertrand Arsenault (Université de Montréal)
  • Claude Viau (Université de Montréal)
  • Thierry Petitjean-Roget (IRSST)