Work-related injuries reduce caregiving hours at home

In brief

  • One of the social consequences of work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) is a decrease in workers' ability to provide care to family outside of work.
  • Study participants reported a significant reduction in the amount of time spent in unpaid caregiving activities while they recovered from a work-related MSD.

Published: January 2006

Why was this study done?

Few studies have considered the implications that work-related soft-tissue injuries have on workers who provide unpaid care to family members or friends. These injuries to muscles, nerves, tendons or other soft tissues are also known as musculoskeletal disorders. As the population continues to age, more workers will have aging parents who will require care. This study was undertaken to explore and describe the impact of work-related MSDs on caregiving activities.

How was the study done?

Researchers conducted telephone surveys with 187 workers who had filed lost-time workers' compensation claims in Ontario. In this group, 90 participants (48 per cent) reported caregiving activities before their injury.

Workers were asked questions about their backgrounds, including gender, education level and full- or part-time work status. They were also asked details about caregiving activities before the injury and at the time of the interview. The workers who were interviewed were found to represent the larger population of injured workers reasonably well in terms of personal and work characteristics.

What did the researchers find?

Workers reported spending an average of 5.5 fewer hours per week in caregiving activities eight months after their injury. Women showed larger decreases in the number of caregiving hours than men. One likely reason is that women had more caregiving hours before the injury. Also, individuals who were not back at work at the time of the survey had a greater drop in the number of caregiving hours.

The analysis considered the impact of the site of injury, presence of other illnesses and education levels, but these factors did not change the relationships found between change in caregiving hours, and return-to-work status and gender.

What are some strengths and weaknesses of the study?

One strength is the confidence that the results apply to a larger population, as researchers examined how well participants' characteristics matched a larger group of injured workers. However, the number of participants was small. It was also not possible to separate the participants who cared for children from those who cared for adults.