The impact of aging on work disability and return to work: insights from workers' compensation claim records

J Occup Environ Med. 2012 Mar;54(3):318-27. doi: 10.1097/JOM.0b013e31823fdf9d.


Objective: To assess the impact of an aging workforce on (1) the incidence of work-related injury or disease and (2) the return-to-work (RTW) process.

Methods: Workers' compensation claims (from 2001 to 2004) from Victoria, Australia (n = 59,525) were analyzed. Time off work was defined in terms of time until first RTW, number of workdays compensated, and work disability recurrences.

Results: The incidence of lost-time claims was 7.54 per 1000 worker-years; incidence increased with age to reach a maximum at ages 50 to 54 years. Days until first return also increased with age, as did the sum of compensated days. Recurrences were common (37%) and also increased with age.

Conclusions: The aging workforce will lead to substantial increase in work disability. Besides general disease and injury preventative practices, policies could aim to provide tailored RTW programs for aging workers.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aging*
  • Employment*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Occupational Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Occupational Injuries / epidemiology*
  • Sick Leave / statistics & numerical data*
  • Time Factors
  • Victoria / epidemiology
  • Workers' Compensation / statistics & numerical data*
  • Young Adult