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Original research
Increased all-cause mortality following occupational injury: a comparison of two states

Abstract

Objectives To measure the impact of lost-time occupational injuries on all-cause mortality in Washington State and, using the same data elements and study design, to determine whether the estimated impact was similar to previous estimates for New Mexico.

Methods We linked injuries in the Washington workers’ compensation system with Social Security Administration data on earnings and mortality. We estimated Cox survival models of mortality for women and men with lost-time compared with medical-only injuries, adjusting for age, pre-injury earnings and industry. We used quantitative bias analysis to account for confounding by pre-injury smoking and obesity.

Results The estimated mortality HR was 1.24 for women (95% CI 1.21 to 1.28) and 1.22 for men (95% CI 1.20 to 1.24). After adjusting for unmeasured pre-injury smoking and obesity, the estimated HR for women was 1.10, 95% simulation interval (SI) 1.00 to 1.21; for men, it was 1.15, 95% SI 1.04 to 1.27.

Conclusions All-cause mortality for Washington workers with lost-time injuries was higher than for those with medical-only injuries. Estimated HRs for Washington were consistent with those previously estimated for New Mexico, a less populous state with lower median wages and a different workers’ compensation insurance mechanism. This suggests that the relationship between workplace injury and long-term mortality may be generalisable to other US states. These findings support greater efforts to enhance safety and to investigate factors that improve postinjury employment opportunities and long-term health. This association should be examined in additional locations, with different study conditions, or using additional data on pre-injury risk factors.

  • mortality
  • occupational health
  • public health
  • epidemiology

Data availability statement

No data are available. Social Security Administration (SSA) data are not available to researchers who are not SSA employees. National Death Index and Washington and New Mexico Workers’ Compensation data may be available with written agreement with the relevant state agencies. NHANES and PSID data are publicly available.

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