Do regional labor market conditions matter for temporary work disability duration? A multilevel analysis of workers' compensation claims in five Canadian provinces

Publication type
Journal article
Macpherson RA, Amick B, Collie A, Koehoorn M, Smith PM, McLeod CB
Date published
2023 May 01
American Journal of Industrial Medicine
Open Access?

BACKGROUND: Research has shown how regionally varying labor market conditions are associated with differences in work disability duration. However, the majority of these studies have not used multilevel models to appropriately account for the hierarchical clustering of individuals nested within contextual units (e.g., regions). Studies that have used multilevel models have focused on privately insured workers or on disability not specifically caused by work-related injury or illness. METHODS: Using claims data from five Canadian provincial workers' compensation systems, linear random-intercept models were used to estimate how much variance in temporary work disability duration ('work disability duration' for brevity) for work-related injuries and musculoskeletal disorders was due to differences between economic regions, what economic region-level labor market characteristics were associated with work disability duration, and what characteristics best explained economic region differences in work disability duration. RESULTS: Economic region characteristics, such as the unemployment rate and proportion of goods-producing employment, were independently associated with individual-level work disability duration. However, economic region variation only accounted for 1.5%-2% of total variation in work disability duration. The majority (71%) of economic region-level variation was explained by the provincial jurisdiction where the worker livedÂand was injured. Regional variation tended to be greater for female workers than males. CONCLUSIONS: The findings suggest that while regional labor market conditions matter for work disability duration, system-level differences in workers' compensation and health care are more important factors influencing work disability duration. Furthermore, while this study includes both temporary and permanent disability claims, the work disability duration measure only captures temporary disability