The musculoskeletal group is investigating the complex development of back and neck pain from childhood, through adolescence, into early adulthood, and the impact of backpain on work. Back pain is a leading contributor to work disability in the form of absenteeism (being away from work) and presenteeism (reduced productivity at work).Factors that contribute to the development of backpain in teenagers and young adults include physical factors (posture, fitness, motor competence, weight), lifestyle factors (computer and TV use, physical activity, diet, drug use),  psychosocial factors (depression, anxiety, stress, coping, fear of movement, back pain beliefs), genetics (genes linked to stress response and pain thresholds) and other factors including sleep and chronic diseases such as asthma. The group is also examining the effects of sedentary behaviour (periods of inactivity for example working at a desk or watching television) health outcomes. During the 23 year follow up the group collected information on activity levels and work patterns to further research the links between work, activity and health outcomes.


Research Team

Professor Leon Straker PhD

Professor Peter O'Sullivan PhD

A/ Professor Anne Smith PhD

Dr Darren Beales PhD


A/ Professor David Champion

Sydney Children's Hospital


A/ Professor Michelle Stirling

Griffith University, Queensland


Jennifer Job

Safe Work Australia


Dr Glenn Pransky

Liberty Mutual Research Institute,Boston, USA


Professor Steven Linton

Orebro University, Sweden



  • Rob Waller, PhD candidate
  • Karen Richards, Professional doctorate
  • Naomi Heaps, Masters candidate
  • Davinda Gill, Masters candidate



  • 2013-2014, SafeWork Australia, L Straker, D Beales, A Smith, R Moorin, G Pransky, P O'Sullivan, S Linton, Work productivity loss associated with musculoskeletal pain in young adults, $70,000. 
  • 2012-2014, NHMRC 1044840, L Straker, G Healy, M Tremblay, R Abbot, A Smith, G Mishra, A life course approach to characterising and predicting inactivity and sedentary behaviour of young adults, $291,473.




Assoc Prof Anne Smith

Anne Smith