Can Workers’ Compensation Help Victims’ Mental Health?

Suffering an on-the-job injury can be a life-changing experience, and not in a good way. Most people in Illinois know that physical pain and financial problems are issues for workers who have to take time off to recover. Unfortunately, injured workers’ mental health is often overlooked. Without the right support — such as workers’ compensation — the outlook is not bright for these victims.

The National Safety Council says 4.6 million people are injured on the job every year, which comes out to about one injury for every seven seconds. Past research has already showed that, when compared to workers with less severe injuries, workers who needed to take a week or more off following an injury had a 20% higher chance of dying for any reason. Additional research had already identified increased risk factors following an injury, including depression, long-term income loss and frequent opioid treatment.

Researchers wanted to better understand how workplace injuries affect victims’ mental health, so they analyzed data for upwards of 100,000 workers. The data was collected between 1994 and 2000, focusing on workers who suffered injuries that required at least seven days off of work — a lost-time injury — or resulted in permanent disability. The results from the study were unsettling, highlighting the mental health problems that are going untreated. For example, men who suffer lost-time injuries have a 72% higher risk of dying by suicide than workers who are not as badly injured. Women in the same situation have an astounding 92% higher risk of dying by suicide.

The emotional toll of suffering physical pain, struggling to pay related medical bills and living without a crucial source of income can be overwhelming. Injured workers in Illinois can suffer serious damage to their mental health, but they may not know where to go for help or even realize that there is a problem. For these individuals, workers’ compensation can be an essential tool for addressing all of these damages. When the financial pressure of an injury is removed, some people may be better equipped to work toward successful recoveries.

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