Long-term health effects seen in injured youth

In brief

  • Workers aged 15 to 24 with a compensation claim show higher levels of health-care use – beyond their workers’ compensation health services or benefits – both before and after their injury, compared with youth without a claim.
  • Young women with claims, in particular, show high use of health-care services. This finding suggests that women may experience more chronic or recurring symptoms than men, or they may seek care outside of the compensation system for work- related injuries.

Published: January 2008

Why was this study done?

Little is known about how workplace injuries in young workers affect their health and work experiences in the long term. Do such injuries have a continuing effect on their vulnerability to injury, symptoms and re-injury? This study investigates these issues, looking at health-care use, beyond workers’ compensation health services or benefits, among youth with a workers’ compensation claim before and after the injury date. It then compares these findings with a sample of non-injured youth.

How was the study done?

Researchers analyzed a population-based study that merged health and workers’ compensation records by gender. They looked at 18,903 compensation claims for individuals aged 15-24 in British Columbia between 1991 and 2001 and matched them with a sample of non-injured young workers. Researchers included only short-term disability claims.

What did the researchers find?

Four distinct patterns of health-care use emerged, based on visits to general practitioners. These patterns were based on information from nine years before the injury and nine years after the injury:

Group 1: low number of visits (two per year)
Group 2: medium number of visits (four per year)
Group 3: medium-high number of visits (four to nine per year)
Group 4: high number of visits (10 to 16 per year)

All four groups showed a spike in health-care use in the year following the injury date, with the greatest increase among women. For both men and women, the initial spike was due to a musculoskeletal or injury diagnoses (fractures, sprains, etc). Health-care use remained high for those with musculoskeletal diagnoses even after the injury. In general, women had higher health-care use than men.

What are some strengths and weaknesses of the study?

This was the first population-based, longitudinal study of general health-care use among youth with a work injury. However, the results are drawn from a selected sample of participants whose health-care use could be tracked over a long time, and may not reflect the experiences of all young workers.