Workers injured on the job face higher risk of death: Study

Mortality rate rises for young, impaired employees
||Last Updated: 02/25/2015

Workers injured on the job face a higher risk of early death, a new study from the Institute for Work and Health reports.

In its report, released at the end of February, the independent research organization noted serious work-related injuries can raise the risk of mortality, especially those injured at a young age — a risk that remains more than a decade after the injury.

Contrary to popular belief, the IWH said the highest jump in mortality risks are those faced by people who are permanently impaired following a work injury in their younger years (between 25 and 39) — thereby dispelling the notion that young workers can recover more easily.

“It could be that people at a younger age are less established in the labour market when they got injured. Or maybe the type of work they do is more physical and less easy to go back to after the injury,” said Heather Scott-Marshall, the associate scientist who led the study.

Her research, a 19-year undertaking, showed the overall rate of death in men with permanent impairments was 14 per cent, compared to nine per cent of non-injured men, which translates to a mortality risk that is 55 per cent higher. Disabled women faced 50 per cent more risk, from a six per cent death rate in those impaired, and four per cent non-injured.

Work disability was found to play a key role in this increased mortality risk.

The higher risk of death cropped up a decade or more after the initial injury, with the divergence in death rates peaking after 13 years in women and after 15 years in men.

“This suggests to us that the risk of dying from a disabling injury can persist for decades,” Scott-Marshall explained.

Occupational disabilities stem from the physical, psychological and emotional difficulties individuals experience coping with an acquired impairment, the study noted. Such trials can affect an employee’s sense of self and create social problems, Scott-Marshall said, citing as example the fact that an individual might not understand how to fulfill their role as an employee, spouse or parent.

“This, in turn, can affect their ability to re-enter the labour market after an injury and may compromise long-term employment success,” she added. “Other key factors contributing to work disability include stigma and discrimination against workers with impairment, which have been shown to affect opportunities in the labour market.”

The IWH enlisted data from Statistics Canada and Ontario’s Workplace Safety and Insurance Board to conduct its research.

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