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Mental health insurance claims among spouses of frequent business travellers


Objectives: Following up on two earlier publications showing increased psychological stress and psychosocial effects of travel on the business travellers this study investigated the health of spouses of business travellers.

Methods: Medical claims of spouses of Washington DC World Bank staff participating in the medical insurance programme in 1997–8 were reviewed. Only the first of each diagnosis with the ninth revision of the international classification of diseases (ICD-9) recorded for each person was included in this analysis. The claims were grouped into 28 diagnostic categories and subcategories.

Results: There were almost twice as many women as men among the 4630 identified spouses. Overall, male and female spouses of travellers filed claims for medical treatment at about a 16% higher rate than spouses of non-travellers. As hypothesised, a higher rate for psychological treatment was found in the spouses of international business travellers compared with non-travellers (men standardised rate ratios (RR)=1.55; women RR=1.37). For stress related psychological disorders the rates tripled for both female and male spouses of frequent travellers (≥ four missions/year) compared with those of non-travelling employees. An increased rate of claims among spouses of travellers versus non-travellers was also found for treatment for certain other diagnostic groups. Of these, diseases of the skin (men RR=2.93; women RR=1.41) and intestinal diseases (men RR=1.31; women RR=1.47) may have some association with the spouses' travel, whereas others, such as malignant neoplasms (men RR=1.97; women RR=0.79) are less likely to have such a relation.

Conclusion: The previously identified pattern of increased psychological disorders among business travellers is mirrored among their spouses. This finding underscores the permeable boundary between family relations and working life which earlier studies suggested, and it emphasises the need for concern within institutions and strategies for prevention.

  • stress
  • corporate travel
  • medical claims
  • ICD-9, ninth revision of the international classification of diseases
  • SRR, standardised rate of claims ratios
  • RR, standardised rate ratios

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