Can we improve return to work time by treating mental as well as physical health?

Date posted: 
Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Musculoskeletal (MSK) injury is the leading source of work-related disability in high income countries, including Canada. The longer a worker is off work with an MSK injury the greater the risk of permanent work disability (including long term exit from the workforce), as well as the risk of co-morbidities and poor general health. This is in addition to the broader societal costs associated with lost productivity, economic impact, and allocation of valuable healthcare resources.

There is growing evidence that workers unable to work due to workplace physical injury often experience mental symptoms or disorders, including depression and anxiety that may also contribute to prolonged claim duration.

Data access has been approved for a study by the Partnership for Work, Health and Safety at UBC’s School of Population and Public Health, to investigate the relationship between mental health conditions and disability duration for workers with a compensation claim for MSK injury in British Columbia, and potential factors that improve return-to-work outcomes in this population.

“Currently, few workers’ compensation systems adequately address mental health in the return to work management and treatment plan for physical injury, and there is little evidence available to guide the implementation of new policy and practice in this area,” says Andrea Jones, who will conduct the research as part of her doctoral thesis.

Based on the findings, recommendations will be made to inform compensation benefits for mental health services, and policy and practice to improve return to work and ultimately reduce claim duration for workers with both a workplace MSK injury and a depressive and/or anxiety disorder.

The Partnership for Work, Health and Safety collaborates with WorkSafeBC to address current and emerging issues of work-related health in British Columbia using workers’ compensation data for research purposes.

PopData will link BC Ministry of Health and WorkSafeBC data for the project.

Page last revised: April 26, 2017