Low back pain (LBP) is a prevalent problem and tends to be socio-economically patterned. Relatively little is known about life-course socio-economic circumstances as determinants of different types of LBP. Our aim was to examine whether childhood and adult socio-economic position and social mobility are associated with radiating and non-specific LBP and sciatica.


Data were derived from the Young Finns Study (n = 2231). Childhood socio-economic position was based on parental education, occupational class and family income at baseline in 1980. Data on own education and LBP outcomes were collected at the end of follow-up in 2007. Social mobility was based on parental and own education. Covariates were composed of age, parental body mass index and smoking.


Both childhood and own socio-economic position remained associated with radiating LBP and sciatica after adjustments. However, the associations varied by socio-economic indicator and gender. Stable lower socio-economic position and downward mobility were associated with radiating LBP.


Childhood socio-economic circumstances affect the risk of radiating LBP and sciatica in adulthood. To prevent low back disorders, early socio-economic circumstances need to be considered alongside own socio-economic position.