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The Impact of Aging on Work Disability and Return to Work: Insights From Workers' Compensation Claim Records

Berecki-Gisolf, Janneke MD, PhD; Clay, Fiona J. PhD; Collie, Alex PhD; McClure, Roderick J. MD, PhD

Journal of Occupational & Environmental Medicine: March 2012 - Volume 54 - Issue 3 - p 318–327
doi: 10.1097/JOM.0b013e31823fdf9d
Original Articles

Objective: To assess the impact of an aging workforce on (1) the incidence of work-related injury or disease and (2) the return-to-work (RTW) process.

Methods: Workers' compensation claims (from 2001 to 2004) from Victoria, Australia (n = 59,525) were analyzed. Time off work was defined in terms of time until first RTW, number of workdays compensated, and work disability recurrences.

Results: The incidence of lost-time claims was 7.54 per 1000 worker-years; incidence increased with age to reach a maximum at ages 50 to 54 years. Days until first return also increased with age, as did the sum of compensated days. Recurrences were common (37%) and also increased with age.

Conclusions: The aging workforce will lead to substantial increase in work disability. Besides general disease and injury preventative practices, policies could aim to provide tailored RTW programs for aging workers.

From the Monash Injury Research Institute (Drs Berecki-Gisolf and McClure), and Institute for Safety, Compensation and Recovery Research (Drs Clay and Collie), Monash University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.

Address correspondence to: Janneke Berecki-Gisolf, MD, PhD, Monash Injury Research Institute, Bldg 70 Clayton Campus, Monash University, 3800 Melbourne, Australia (janneke-berecki-gisolf@monash.edu.au).

The research was supported by funding from WorkSafe Victoria and the Transport Accident Commission.

Disclosure: The authors declare no conflict of interest.

©2012The American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine