Trends in fatal occupational injury rates among older workers before and after the Great Recession of 2008

Occup Environ Med. 2023 Mar;80(3):154-159. doi: 10.1136/oemed-2022-108587. Epub 2023 Jan 30.


Background: Older workers experience higher rates of fatal occupational injury than younger workers worldwide. In North Carolina, the population of older workers more than doubled between 2000 and 2017. In 2008, the Great Recession changed occupational patterns among all age groups. We examined annual rates and distribution of fatal occupational injuries experienced by older workers, comparing the pre-recession period (2000-2007) to the post-recession period (2009-2017).

Methods: Detailed information on all fatal occupational injuries during the period between 1 January 2000 and 31 December 2017 were abstracted from the records of the North Carolina Office of the Chief Medical Examiner and the office of vital records. The decennial Census and American Community Survey were used to estimate the population at risk and derive annual rates of fatal occupational injury.

Results: During the study period, 537 occupational fatalities occurred among workers 55+ years of age. The rate of fatal occupational injury among older workers declined 2.8% per year, with a 7.7% yearly decline in the pre-recession period compared with a 1.4% increase per year in the post-recession period. Workers 65+ years of age experienced rate increases in both periods. The highest rates of unintentional fatal occupational injury (injuries that were not purposefully inflicted) were observed in forestry, fishing hunting and trapping, and wood building manufacturing. Intentional fatal occupational injury rates (homicide, suicide) were highest in transportation, gas/service stations and grocery/food stores.

Conclusions: Older workers have persistently high rates of fatal occupational injury in North Carolina before and after the Great Recession.

Keywords: accidents; environmental exposure; epidemiology; public health; public health surveillance.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Accidental Injuries*
  • Accidents, Occupational
  • Homicide
  • Humans
  • North Carolina / epidemiology
  • Occupational Injuries* / epidemiology
  • Suicide*
  • Wounds and Injuries*