New research finds that depression, anxiety, and fatigue cause women to have an increased risk of being injured at work. Investigators found that although men were more likely to be injured at work, mental health factors only affected a women’s chance of work injury, not men.
The study, by researchers from the Colorado School of Public Health’s Center for Health (SPH), Work & Environment appears in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.
“The findings of our study demonstrate that keeping workers safe requires more than your typical safety program. It requires an integrated approach that connects health, well-being, and safety,” said Dr. Natalie Schwatka, the study’s lead author. Schwatka is an assistant professor in the Colorado SPH’s Center for Health, Work & Environment and Department of Environmental and Occupational Health.
The authors collaborated with Colorado’s largest workers’ compensation insurer, Pinnacol Assurance, to examine the claims data of 314 businesses from a range of industries. Close to 17,000 employees ranging from executives to laborers were represented in the study.
The researchers found that men were more likely to sustain a work-related injury but behavioral health factors, like poor sleep and anxiety, did not directly affect their risk of injury. Women were more likely to report experiencing mental and behavioral health issues and these conditions increased their risk of getting hurt on the job.
Almost 60 percent of women with a work injury reported experiencing a behavioral health condition before they were injured, compared to 33 percent of men.
Yet Schwatka cautioned that further research is needed to understand why there are differences in women’s and men’s risk of work-related injuries. Overall, workers who had an injury in the past were more likely to be injured again, regardless of their gender.
“There a number of social and cultural factors that may explain why women reported having more behavioral health concerns than men did. Men generally admit to fewer health concerns,” said Schwatka.
“And women may face different stresses at work and at home. It’s something that is worth exploring in future research.”