Reporting of social deprivation in musculoskeletal trials: an analysis of 402 randomised controlled trials

Toby O. Smith, Steven J. Kamper, Christopher M. Williams, Hopin Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)
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Background: Social deprivation is broadly defined as the restriction of access an individual has to social or cultural interactions due to poverty, discrimination or other disadvantages. While social deprivation is a widely acknowledged determinant of outcome in musculoskeletal conditions, it remains unclear how this is considered in the conduct and interpretation of musculoskeletal trials. 

Aim: To determine the frequently to which measures of social deprivation are reported in trials recruiting people with musculoskeletal diseases. 

Materials and Methods: We conducted a Pubmed search of randomised controlled trials published between 01 January 2019 and 01 June 2020. We included full-text papers of trials recruiting people with musculoskeletal diseases, irrespective of intervention type or origin. We extracted data relating to trial characteristics, setting, trial design, funding source and musculoskeletal disease. We extracted data on any reported social deprivation index or measure of social deprivation based on internationally adopted indicators. We analysed data descriptively to summarise the reporting of each social deprivation index and measure of social deprivation within trials. 

Results: From 2133 potentially eligible citations, 402 were eligible. Mean age of participants was 51.7 years; 63% were female. Trials most frequently recruited people with spinal pain (24.6%) or osteoarthritis (10.0%). Two trials (0.5%) reported social deprivation indices/scores. When assessed by discrete measures of social deprivation, 164 trials (40.8%) reported one or more social deprivation measures. The most commonly reported measures were morbidity (20.2%), employment status (17.7%) and educational attainment (15.5%). Race (6.7%), ethnicity (6.2%) and annual salary (1.3%) were infrequently reported. One trial (0.3%) presented subgroup results by social deprivation measures. 

Discussion and Conclusion: Social deprivation is inconsistently reported in musculoskeletal trials. Trialists should report baseline measures of social deprivation in trial reports and aid generalisability to target population, and to examine whether social deprivation might modify treatment effects of interventions for musculoskeletal conditions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)180-185
Number of pages6
JournalMusculoskeletal Care
Issue number2
Early online date14 Oct 2020
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2021


  • orthopaedics
  • rheumatology
  • RCT
  • marginalisation
  • economic status
  • educational attainment
  • generalisability
  • effect modifying

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