Sip Germany

In this section, national initiatives which have been set up in Germany can be found.

Lower back pain as a significant factor in work related disability

German disability report on “Company culture and health – challenges and opportunities”

The main topic of the German disability report from 2016 was “Company culture and health – challenges and opportunities”. Experts from different disciplines evaluated these topics and provided guidance for health management in business and how to create a positive company culture.

Furthermore, the report published current data and analyses about disease related loss of working days in Germany. The basis for these analyses are data from about 12 million employees from more than 1.5 million businesses in 2015 which have been provided by the public insurance institution AOK.

Development of Disabilities

According to these data the amount of disabilities in 2015 compared to the previous year has increased by 0.1%, now totaling 5.3%. The regions of North Rhine-Westphalia (5.9%), Saarland (6.4%) and Rhineland-Palatinate (5.9%) show the highest rates in Germany whereas in Bavaria (4.7%) and Baden-Württemberg (5.1%) they are comparatively somewhat lower.

On average, the employees insured by AOK were on sick leave for 19.5 calendar days within the reporting year. 54.9% of employees were recorded by their doctors at least once per year for their inability to work.

Overall, the level of disability has been slightly increased by 0.1% since the previous year up to the new level of 5.3%.

The following six disease areas are the major causes for lost working days:

  • Muscular skeletal diseases (21.8%)
  • Respiratory diseases (13.0%)
  • General injuries (10.8%)
  • Psychological disorders (10.5%)
  • Cardiovascular diseases (6.1%)
  • Gastrointestinal disorders (5.2%)

Back pain is the most prevalent diagnosis

The disability report 2016 evaluated 12 different industries, these were: the building industry, energy/water/refuse/mining, the manufacturing industry, metal, transportation, agriculture and forestry, tertiary service sector, trading, public administration and social insurance, health and social area, education as well as banking/insurance companies.

Out of the 40 most frequently reported single diagnoses, back pain is the most common cause for registered disability within the observed industries. Back pain is overall one of the three mostly reported single diagnoses. Acute infections have been the most frequent cause in 2015 for sick notes with 9.3 % of reported cases and 5.7 % of lost working days. Back pain is the next most frequent with 6.0% of cases and 5.7% of lost working days.

Proportion of back pain disability by industry in 2015

Below there are some examples listed by industry with the position of back pain related to the 40 most frequent reported single diagnosis (% cases / % of work loss days):


Top 3 (3.4% / 3.3%)

Building industry:

Top 2 (7.0% / 6.2%)


Top 2 (6.2% / 5.9%)


Top 2 (6.7% / 6.1%)


Top 3 (4.1% / 3.8%)


Top 2 (5.6% / 5.4%)


Supporting conclusions from other health studies

In addition to the disability report 2016 there are other study results available which report that back pain counts for a large proportion of lost working days. SpiegelOnline has reported on October 19th 2016 with the headline “These 10 disorders affect the most Germans” which relates to a health study where the authors conclude that back pain is the number 2 of main complaints from the German population. Besides these surveys the authors refer also to data from the health insurance companies Techniker Krankenkasse and Barmer GEK. Both insurers have allocated a high proportion of lost working days to back pain as well.


Fehlzeiten-Report 2016 „Unternehmenskultur und Gesundheit – Herausforderung und Chancen“, Hrsg. Badura, Ducki, Schröder, Klose, Meyer, 2016, Springer Verlag

SpiegelOnline, Gesundheitsstudie „Diese zehn Leiden plagen die Deutschen am ärgsten“, 19. Oktober 2016, Hrsg. Irene Berres und Nina Weber

Krankenhaus-Report 2015, Barmer GEK

Gesundheitsreport 2014, Techniker Krankenkasse

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