Age, occupational demands and the risk of serious work injury

Occup Med (Lond). 2014 Dec;64(8):571-6. doi: 10.1093/occmed/kqu125. Epub 2014 Aug 28.


Background: Interest in the relationship between age and serious work injury is increasing, given the ageing of the workforce in many industrialized economies.

Aims: To examine if the relationship between age and risk of serious musculoskeletal injury differs when the physical demands of work are higher from those when they are lower.

Methods: A secondary analysis of workers' compensation claims in the State of Victoria, Australia, combined with estimates of the insured labour force. We focused on musculoskeletal claims, which required 10 days of absence or health care expenditures beyond a pecuniary threshold. Regression models examined the relationship between age and claim-risk across workers with different occupational demands, as well as the relationship between occupational demands and musculoskeletal claim-risk across different age groups.

Results: Older age and greater physical demands at work were associated with an increased risk of musculoskeletal claims. In models stratified by occupational demands, we observed the relationship between age and claim-risk was steeper when occupational demands were higher. We also observed that the relationship between occupational demands and risk of work injury claim peaked among workers aged 25-44, attenuating among those aged 45 and older.

Conclusions: This study's results suggest that although older workers and occupations with higher demands should be the targets of primary preventive efforts related to serious musculoskeletal injuries, there may also be gains in targeting middle-aged workers in the most physically demanding occupations.

Keywords: Age; epidemiology; health and safety; occupational injury; working conditions..

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Disability Evaluation
  • Humans
  • Insurance Claim Review / statistics & numerical data*
  • Musculoskeletal Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Musculoskeletal Diseases / prevention & control
  • Occupational Injuries / epidemiology*
  • Occupational Injuries / prevention & control
  • Return to Work / statistics & numerical data
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Workers' Compensation / statistics & numerical data*
  • Workload