High prevalence of chronic musculoskeletal complaints among women in a Norwegian general population: The Tromsø study

Ole Fredrik Andorsen, Luai A. Ahmed, Nina Emaus, Elise Klouman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


Background: The aims of this study were to estimate the prevalence and severity of MSCs in the adult general population of Northern Norway, and to study associations between MSCs and various demographic and lifestyle variables. Methods. Data from the Tromsø 6 survey (2007-2008) of the population-based Tromsø Study were used (12,984 participants, 65.7% participation rate). We included 8,439 participants aged 30-79 years in the analyses. Associations between demographic and lifestyle variables and chronic MSCs (i.e., those lasting for at least 3 consecutive months, hereafter referred to as simply MSCs) was examined using logistic regression analysis. Results: The total age-adjusted prevalence of both mild and severe MSCs was 63.4% and 52.9% in women and men, respectively. In women, the age-adjusted prevalence was 44.0% and 19.4% for mild and severe MSCs, respectively; the corresponding values in men were 40.8% and 12.1%. The highest prevalence was found in the neck/shoulder region (34.2% and 8.9% for mild and severe MSCs, respectively). The prevalence of MSCs in ≥5 body regions was three times higher in women than in men (14.9% vs 5.6%). Current smoking was significantly associated with MSCs (odds ratio [OR]: 1.41, 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.22-1.62), but showed a stronger effect in women (OR: 1.60, 95% CI: 1.30-1.96) than in men (OR: 1.25, 95% CI: 1.02-1.52). Self-perceived poor health was strongly associated with MSC (OR: 3.73, 95% CI: 3.27-4.24). Moderate vs low level of physical activity was associated with MSCs only in women (OR: 1.37, 95% CI: 1.12-1.67). Other demographic and lifestyle variables associated with MSCs were age (OR: 1.04, 95% CI: 1.01-1.06), body mass index (BMI) >30 kg/m2(OR: 1.42, 95% CI: 1.23-1.66), low education level (OR: 1.78, 95% CI: 1.53-2.08) and former smoking (OR: 1.21, 95% CI: 1.09-1.35). Marital status, BMI <18.5 kg/m2, high and very high level of physical activity was not associated with MSCs. Conclusion: Chronic MSCs are highly prevalent in this Northern Norwegian population, and are strongly related to self-perceived poor health. Women have a higher burden of MSCs than men. Most demographic and lifestyle variables associated with MSCs showed stronger associations in women than in men.

Original languageEnglish
Article number506
JournalBMC Research Notes
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Aug 8 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Cross-sectional
  • Gender
  • Musculoskeletal complaints
  • Norway
  • Population-based
  • Prevalence
  • Self-perceived health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry,Genetics and Molecular Biology


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