To estimate the prevalence of communication vulnerability (CV) and its association with various health measures among working-age Australians with musculoskeletal conditions (MSK). The various vulnerability characteristics may lead to inadequate communication between consumers and healthcare professionals.
Prevalence of CV among 18–64 year olds, with or without MSK, was analyzed using the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ National Health Survey 2007–08 data. Associations between CV and measures of health complexity (accumulating multimorbidity and risk factors) and health burden (poorer self-rated health, psychological distress, and pain restricting work) in the MSK population were estimated using logistic regression. Further analyses were conducted for each vulnerability characteristic to determine the degree of association (crude and adjusted) with measures of interest.
CV were more prevalent in working-age Australians with MSK (65%) than those without (51%). Adjusted for age and sex among working-age Australians with at least 1 MSK, those with 1 or more CV were more likely to have multimorbidity [adjusted OR (aOR) = 1.8, 95% CI 1.5–2.2], lifestyle risk factors (aOR = 2.1, 95% CI 1.5–2.8), poorer self-rated health (aOR = 3.4, 95% CI 2.7–4.2), greater psychological distress (aOR = 2.9, 95% CI 2.3–3.7), and pain restricting employment (aOR = 1.7, 95% CI 1.4–2.1) compared with those without CV.
For working-age people, there is an association between MSK and CV. For those with MSK, CV were associated with increased likelihood of health complexity and burden. These findings have policy and clinical relevance. Research is needed to determine whether interventions that address these specific CV characteristics reduce the burden of disease within these populations.