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

Anticipated results/impact

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 research summaries

Project status

Completed 2020

Research team

  • Peter Smith, Institute for Work & Health (PI)
  • Anthony LaMontagne, Deakin University
  • Rebbecca Lilley, University of Otago
  • Sheilah Hogg-Johnson, Institute for Work & Health
  • Michael Sim, Monash University

Funded by

Australian Research Council