Suicide and drug-related mortality following occupational injury

BACKGROUND: Drug overdoses and suicides have been rising since 2000 and are major contributors to a 3-year decline in US life expectancy. Studies suggest that injured workers have elevated rates of depression and opioid use, but no studies have measured excess mortality related to these risks. MATERIALS AND METHODS: We linked New Mexico workers' compensation data for 100 806 workers injured in 1994 through 2000 with Social Security Administration earnings and mortality data through 2013 and National Death Index cause of death data. We then estimated the association between receiving lost-time workers' compensation benefits and mortality hazard ratios (HRs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) based on Fine and Gray cause-specific subdistribution hazards for common causes of death and for drug-related, suicide, and alcohol-related mortality. RESULTS: There was almost a 3-fold increase in combined drug-related and suicide mortality hazard among women (HR = 2.63, 95% CI = 1.91-3.64) and a substantial increase among men (HR = 1.42, 95% CI = 1.13-1.79). Circulatory disease mortality hazard was elevated for men (HR = 1.25, 95% CI = 1.05-1.50). CONCLUSION: Workplace injuries severe enough to require more than a week off work may impair workers' long-term health and well-being. Drug-related deaths and suicides may be important contributors to the long-term excess mortality of injured workers. Improved workplace conditions, improved pain treatment, better treatment of substance use disorders, and treatment of postinjury depression may substantially reduce mortality consequent to workplace injuries.

Source: Applebaum, K. M., Asfaw, A., O'Leary, P. K., Busey, A., Tripodis, Y. et Boden, L. I. (2019). American Journal of Industrial Medicine.
https://doi.org/10.1002/ajim.23021

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