Rapidly ageing workforces are contributing to the growing interest in age-related differences in the consequences of injury. This study aims to determine whether age-related differences exist in a number of important recovery outcomes including: work participation, functioning and disability 24 months following injury among a cohort of New Zealand workers.
Methods Quantitative data was collected by interview from 2083 participants in the Prospective Outcomes of Injury Study (POIS) at baseline and again 24 months after an ACC entitlement claim eligible injury (ie. severe enough to warrant one week off work). Outcomes considered include work status, the five dimensions of the EQ-5D (mobility, self-care, usual activities, pain/discomfort, anxiety/depression) plus cognitive functioning, and the WHO Disability Assessment Schedule (WHO-DAS II). Bivariate and multivariable analyses examined the relationship between age groups (18–24; 25–34, 35–44; 45–54, 55–64 years) and each outcome separately.
Results The prevalence of work absence was greatest in 18–24 year olds (23%) followed by 55–64 year olds (16%). Multivariable analyses found that, compared to workers aged 35–44, youngest workers (aged 18–24) were at 79% greater risk of work absence at 24 months, but at 23% lower risk of difficulties with pain/discomfort. Older workers (aged 55–65) were at increased 45% risk of work absence, mobility difficulties (109% greater) and cognitive difficulties (62% greater) compared with workers aged 35–44. Age-related differences were not observed for EQ-5D dimensions of self-care, usual activities and anxiety/depression, or for disability.
Conclusion In this cohort patterns of recovery outcomes at 24 months following injury differ according to age; with pronounced differences at each end of the working age spectrum. Efforts to reduce long-term work absence following injury should consider age with interventions to improve work ability and reduce functional difficulties targeted at older workers. More research is required to understand the risk of work absence among younger workers.
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