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Older Workers Sidelined After Injuries

Texas Journal of Chiropractic, Online

By Kristina Fiore, Staff Writer, MedPage Today
Published: April 28, 2011
Reviewed by Robert Jasmer, MD; Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco and Dorothy Caputo, MA, RN, BC-ADM, CDE, Nurse Planner

When older workers are injured on the job, they’re sidelined for longer periods of time than their younger co-workers, CDC researchers found.

Those 55 to 64 and those 65 and up were out of work for a median of 11 days and 12 days, respectively, compared with about nine days for those ages 35 to 44 and about six days for those ages 25 to 34, Dawn Castillo, MPH, of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, and colleagues reported in Morbidity & Mortality Weekly Report.

“Although older workers had similar or lower rates for all injuries and illnesses combined compared with younger workers, the length of absence from work increased steadily with age and was highest for older workers,” they wrote.

Action Points
  • Explain that when older workers are injured on the job, they’re out for longer periods of time than young persons.
  • Note that older workers had higher rates of certain types of injuries, such as falls on the same level, fractures, and hip injuries.

Older workers — those ages 55 and up — accounted for 19% of the U.S. workforce in 2009, and they comprise the fastest growing segment of the working population as they forgo retirement for various reasons, the researchers said.

For their study, the researchers analyzed data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses.

In 2009, there were 1,238,490 nonfatal injuries that resulted in lost work days, and 210,830 of them — that’s 17% — occurred among older workers, the researchers said.

The vast majority — 94% — were acute traumatic injuries.

Overall, they said, older workers had similar rates for all types of injuries and illnesses compared with younger workers.

However, they had higher rates of certain types of injuries, such as falls on the same level, fractures, and hip injuries.

Fractures, for instance, accounted for 11% of all injuries in this age group and were associated with a higher median number of days absent from work than other injuries (32 days for those ages 55 to 64, and 42 days for those 65 and up).

Yet rates for other injuries among older workers, such as contact with objects and equipment, were lower compared with other age groups, the researchers said.

The researchers also found that the length of absence due to these injuries increased steadily with age, and was highest for older workers.

They said the findings regarding longer recovery times for this group are consistent with previous trials.

Thus, Castillo and colleagues concluded, more work should be done to better understand the overall burden of occupational injuries and illnesses on older workers, aging-associated risks, and effective prevention.

They noted that the analysis did not include fatal injuries, and that it was also limited by self-report. As well, it didn’t include data on long-term disability or costs, and data from certain small businesses.

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