Mental health suffers among workers permanently impaired by job injury

Workers who suffer a permanent impairment following a work injury are at greater risk of depression, sleep problems and medication abuse than the general population, according to new research from Trent University and the Research Action Alliance on the Consequences of Work Injury (RAACWI).  For example, the study found greater rates of diagnosed depression (38 versus 12 per cent), sleep problems (75 versus 48 per cent), medication abuse (12 versus two per cent), and problems concentrating (42 versus 10 per cent).

O’Hagan was surprised by the findings. “What got me the most were the extent and range of problems,” he says. “Injured workers’ depressive symptoms were high years after the injury, in men and women, in those in high and low income brackets, with high and not-so-high levels of education. It was across the board.” He also saw an unsettling number of people who described their use of prescription or over-the-counter medications as “abusive.”

O’Hagan hopes that workers’ compensation boards will pay more attention to the mental health of workers with permanent injuries. He suggests that services need to better integrate psychological care with physical rehabilitation. He also proposes a long-term tracking system of injured workers to check physical and psychological recovery.

This study is available online