Sustaining a work-related injury severe enough to result in at least a week off of work almost triples the combined risk of suicide and overdose deaths among women, and increases the risk by 50 percent among men, according to a new study by a research team from Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH).
The researchers say that offering better treatment options for pain and substance use disorders as well as treatments for post-injury depression may dramatically improve the quality of life and reduce death risk among workers with severe injuries.
According to the National Safety Council, approximately 12,600 American workers are injured on the job each day. In 2017, an estimated 104,000,000 production days were lost due to workplace injuries. The most common types of injuries that lead to missed work are overexertion, contact with objects or equipment (struck, caught or crushed in equipment or structure) and falls/slips.
To estimate the link between workplace injury and death, the research team looked at the data of 100,806 workers in New Mexico, 36,034 of whom had lost work time after sustaining an injury between 1994 and 2000.
The researchers looked at workers’ compensation data for that period, Social Security Administration earnings and mortality data through 2013, and National Death Index cause of death data through 2017.
Their findings reveal that men who had had a lost-time injury were 72 percent more likely to die from suicide and 29 percent more likely to die from drug-related causes. These men also had greater rates of death from cardiovascular diseases. Women with lost-time injuries were 92 percent more likely to die from suicide and 193 percent more likely to die from drug-related causes.
Prior research conducted by the authors showed that women and men who had needed to take at least a week off after a workplace injury were more than 20 percent more likely to die from any cause. They write that this new study highlights the roles of suicide and opioids as major causes of those deaths.
“These findings suggest that work-related injuries contribute to the rapid increase in deaths from both opioids and suicides,” said study senior author Dr. Leslie Boden, professor of environmental health at BUSPH.
“Improved pain treatment, better treatment of substance use disorders, and treatment of post-injury depression may substantially improve quality of life and reduce mortality from workplace injuries.”
The study findings are published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine.