Ageing workers with work-related musculoskeletal injuries

Occup Med (Lond). 2015 Apr;65(3):229-37. doi: 10.1093/occmed/kqu213. Epub 2015 Mar 10.


Background: Older workers often take longer to recover and experience more missed workdays after work-related injuries, but it is unclear why or how best to intervene. Knowing the characteristics of older injured workers may help in developing interventions to reduce the likelihood of work disability.

Aims: To describe and compare several characteristics between younger and middle-aged working adults (25-54 years), adults nearing retirement (55-64 years) and adults past typical retirement (≥65 years), who sustained work-related musculoskeletal injuries.

Methods: In this cross-sectional study, Alberta workers' compensation claimants with subacute and chronic work-related musculoskeletal injuries were studied. A wide range of demographic, employment, injury and clinical characteristics were investigated. Descriptive statistics were computed and compared between the age groups.

Results: Among 8003 claimants, adults 65 years or older, compared to those 25-54 and 55-64 years, had lower education (16 versus 10 and 12%, P < 0.001) and were more likely to work in trades, transport and related occupations (50 versus 46 and 44%, P < 0.001), to have less offers of modified work (57 versus 39 and 42%, P < 0.001), more fractures (18 versus 14 and 11%, P < 0.001) and no further rehabilitation recommended after assessment (28 versus 18 and 20%, P < 0.01).

Conclusions: Injured workers past typical retirement age appeared to be a disadvantaged group with significant challenges from a vocational rehabilitation perspective. They were less likely to have modified work options available or be offered rehabilitation, despite having more severe injuries.

Keywords: Aging; occupational injury; older workers; rehabilitation; work-related disabilities..

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aging / pathology*
  • Alberta
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Disability Evaluation
  • Disabled Persons / rehabilitation
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscle, Skeletal / injuries*
  • Occupational Diseases / economics
  • Occupational Diseases / rehabilitation
  • Rehabilitation, Vocational*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Workers' Compensation / economics