Job settings, education linked to work disability in youth

In brief

  • Job characteristics are a main risk factor in occupational health and safety among young workers.
  • Reducing the physical hazards of work, possibly through improvements to equipment and the work environment, should be an important part of workplace safety.
  • In addition, workers’ individual differences in education levels need to be integrated into injury prevention models.

Published: January 2007

Why was this study done?

Young workers aged 16 to 24, and particularly young males, have higher rates of work injury than older workers or females. Their risk of injury is often attributed to their age or gender. However, long working hours, manual jobs and other work-related factors can also add to the risk of injury and disability. This study explores job factors that affect absences due to work disability among young workers over time.

How was the study done?

Researchers studied a sample of young workers from the Survey of Labour and Income Dynamics (SLID), spanning six years. The SLID is conducted by Statistics Canada and has information about work experiences, income and family circumstances of workers over time. To identify potential risk factors for work disability absence, researchers looked at age, gender, physical job demands, hours, education, other employment, job tenure and location (rural or urban).

What did the researchers find?

Young workers with manual jobs were 2.65 times more likely to have an absence caused by a work disability compared with those in non-manual jobs. Young workers who did not complete high school were nearly three times more likely to have a work disability absence than those who did. Those who worked longer hours were also found to be at greater risk. However, individual factors such as gender were not associated with work disability absences.

What are some strengths and weaknesses of the study?

This is the first longitudinal study to consider the factors predicting work disability absences in young workers. However, the reporting of work absences may have been affected by different interpretations of “work disability” by survey participants.