May 7, 2024 - Health

Injured workers need mental health attention: study

Illustration of a brain drawn on a calendar page.

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

People overcoming physical workplace injuries may have accompanying behavioral health challenges that could keep them off the job almost three times as long, according to an analysis from business insurer Sentry.

Why it matters: Early detection of mental health concerns among injured workers can improve employee well-being and save companies money.

What they found: Cases showing evidence of behavioral health issues made up less than 3% of nearly 540,000 workers' compensation claims submitted to Sentry between 2012 and 2019, but accounted for 35% of all costs, the report said.

  • Behavioral health challenges could include anxiety over being able to work again, frustration at being sidelines from daily routines and fear about being injured again.
  • Injured workers with claims involving mental health challenges were also more than three times more likely to rely on opioids.

Between the lines: After nearly a decade and a half of talking about mental health in the workers' compensation field, "it's time to take action," said Jean Feldman, Sentry's director of managed care.

  • Employers should look into paying up front for behavioral health resources, while insurers should educate claims representatives, nurse case managers and social workers on how to address injured workers' behavioral health risks, Sentry's analysis said.
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