How RTW differs for workers with psychological injuries, older workers
Reasons for the study
In many jurisdictions, workers’ compensation claims for workers who have suffered psychological injuries and for workers who are older are increasing as a proportion of total claims. Research has shown that these claims are associated with greater health-care and wage replacement costs. However, the potential reasons for these differences are not well understood.
Researchers from the Institute for Work & Health and Monash University teamed up to create a cohort of workers' compensation claimants across all age ranges with psychological or musculoskeletal injuries. The claimants came from the Australian state of Victoria, where chronic work-related mental stress has been recognized for some time as a compensable injury.
Using data from this group of workers, the study set out to better understand the differences in the return-to-work (RTW) outcomes and experiences of workers with mental health compared to musculoskeletal injuries, and of older versus younger workers.
Objectives of the study
- Identify and describe how recovery and return-to-work experiences differ for workers with psychological versus musculoskeletal work-related injuries
- Identify and describe how recovery and return-to-work experiences differ for older workers compared to younger ones
- Find explanations for these differences and their implications for workers' compensation decision-makers and case managers, as well as injured workers' health-care providers and employers
- Identify other factors contributing to improved return-to-work experiences and outcomes
Policy-makers and case managers at workers' compensation agencies and other insurance organizations, as well as employers and injured workers' health-care providers and supervisors, will learn from the experiences of Victoria, Australia, in order to improve policies and procedures to help workers with psychological injuries and older workers safely and sustainably return to work.
Related scientific publications
- Fan J, Sim M, Lilley R, Wong IS, Smith PM. Sleep disturbances and disability following work-related injury and illness: examining longitudinal relationships across three follow-up waves. Journal of Sleep Research. 2021;30(3):e13124. doi:10.1111/jsr.13124.
- Fan J, Gignac MA, Harris MA, Smith PM. Age differences in return-to-work following injury: understanding the role of age dimensions across longitudinal follow-up. Journal of Occupational & Environmental Medicine. 2020;62(12):e680-e687. doi:10.1097/JOM.0000000000002029.
- Orchard C, Carnide N, Smith PM. How does perceived fairness in the workers' compensation claims process affect mental health following a workplace injury?. Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation. 2020;30(1):40-48. doi:10.1007/s10926-019-09844-3.
- Smith PM, LaMontagne AD, Lilley R, Hogg-Johnson S, Sim MR. Are there differences in the return to work process for work-related psychological and musculoskeletal injuries? A longitudinal path analysis. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology. 2020;55(8):1041-1051. doi:10.1007/s00127-020-01839-3.
- Orchard C, Carnide N, Mustard C, Smith PM. Prevalence of serious mental illness and mental health service use after a workplace injury: a longitudinal study of workers' compensation claimants in Victoria, Australia. Occupational and Environmental Medicine. 2020;77(3):185-187. doi:10.1136/oemed-2019-105995.
Related interviews and articles
- Too many injured workers not seeking mental health supports. Canadian HR Reporter. July 20, 2020. Available from: https://www.hrreporter.com/focus-areas/compensation-and-benefits/too-many-injured-workers-not-seeking-mental-health-supports/330907
- Poorer post-injury experiences lead to worse RTW outcomes for psychological claimants . At Work: Institute for Work & Health; No. 99, Winter 2020.
- Claimants’ perceptions of fair treatment linked to lower odds of poor mental health. At Work: Institute for Work & Health; No. 98, Fall 2019.
- Supervisors who react with support can help injured workers return to the job. At Work: Institute for Work & Health; No. 93, Summer 2018.
- Key differences found in return-to-work process for MSD and psychological claims. At Work: Institute for Work & Health; No. 85, Summer 2016.
Related research summaries
- Return to work: Differences between work-related psychological and physical injuries. Infographic: Institute for Work & Health, November 2021.
- Access to mental health treatment among workers with physical injuries . Research Highlights: Institute for Work & Health, March 2020.
IWH Speaker Series presentations
- Differences in the return-to-work process for work-related psychological and musculoskeletal conditions: findings from an Australian cohort. IWH Speaker Series. April 6, 2021.
- Understanding return to work in MSD claims versus psychological injuries, for younger workers versus older workers. IWH Speaker Series. September 29, 2015.
Australian Research Council