The objective of the study was to compare the prevalence and severity of musculo-skeletal pain between two socioeconomically contrasting areas in Oslo, Norway, and to explore possible explanatory factors.
Questionnaire survey, carried out as part of The Oslo Health Study in 2000–2001. Data from 821 persons (40 and 45 year old) living in a less affluent inner city area (called east) were compared with 854 persons living in an affluent area of the city (called west). Bivariate comparisons (chi square test) and multiple regression analyses were performed to investigate differences between the samples.
61 % in east and 56 % in west (p < 0.05) reported pain/stiffness in muscles/joints during the last four weeks. 30 % in east versus 19 % in west (p < 0.001) reported extensive pain. The between area difference in extensive pain was partially explained by physical inactivity, mental health problems and being of non-Western origin.
Musculo-skeletal pain is reported by 55–60 % of middle aged persons in Oslo during a four week period, and must be considered a normal phenomenon. Poor social conditions, inactivity, mental health problems and being an immigrant imply increased risk of more severe symptoms with a concomitant demand of health care.