Study Links Suicides, Overdose Deaths to Workplace Injuries

23 Jul, 2019 Nancy Grover

                               

Boston, MA (WorkersCompensation.com) – Does being out of work for more than one week put a worker at an increased risk of suicide? Apparently it does, at least in New Mexico. Researchers out of Boston University and elsewhere looked at data for more than 100,000 workers injured between 1994 and 2000 and linked it with earnings and mortality data through 2013 to determine if there was a connection between increased suicide rates and drug overdoses among injured workers.

“There was almost a 3‐fold increase in combined drug‐related and suicide mortality hazard among women and a substantial increase among men,” the researchers reported in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine. “Circulatory disease mortality hazard was elevated for men.”

Incidents of drug overdoses and suicides have been on the increase for nearly two decades, contributing to a decline in life expectancy in the U.S. The researchers speculated that increased rates of depression and opioid use among injured workers might be one of the drivers.

“Depression is among the most well‐documented long‐term health consequences of workplace injury,” they wrote. “Work‐related injuries, when compared with injuries outside of work, are more strongly associated with depression. The impact on depression from work‐related injuries may be due to a combination of the financial burden of the injury, the difficulty involved with pursuing workers’ compensation claims, chronic pain, and occupational injuries typically being more severe and involving longer recovery than non-occupational injuries.”

Additionally, they noted that injured workers may tend to use prescription pain medicines, possibly for an extended period of time and with increased doses. “This may increase the opportunity for misuse of drugs such as opioids and potential for accidental or intentional overdose,” they said.

“Lost‐time injuries were associated with mortality related to drugs and suicide,” they reported.” Among women, lost‐time injuries were associated with a near tripling in the hazard of drug‐related deaths and a 92% increase in mortality hazard due to suicide. For men, the lost‐time injury was associated with a 72% increased hazard of suicide and a 29% increase in drug‐related mortality hazard, although the increase in drug‐related mortality was not statistically significant.”

The researchers said improved workplace conditions, better treatments for pain and substance use disorders, and post-injury depression treatment could have a significant impact.

“Although confounding may account for our findings, we hypothesize that hazardous working conditions are one aspect of the structural causes of high mortality rates from drugs and suicide,” the researchers said. “Though not conclusive, our analysis suggests that reducing occupational injury rates may affect subsequent mortality from specific causes. It, therefore, seems prudent that public health policies should focus on both preventing workplace injuries and improving health care for injured workers.”


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    About The Author

    • Nancy Grover

      Nancy Grover is a freelance writer having recently retired as the Director, Media Services for WorkersCompensation.com. She comes to our company with more than 35 years as a broadcast journalist and communications consultant. Grover’s specialties include insurance, workers’ compensation, financial services, substance abuse, healthcare and disability. For 12 years she served as the Program Chair of the National Workers’ Compensation and Disability Conference® & Expo. A journalism/speech graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University, Grover also holds an MBA from Palm Beach Atlantic University.

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