May 20, 2021

Work-Related Musculoskeletal Disorder Claims More Costly for Older Workers, Study Finds

The average workers’ compensation claim for a work-related musculoskeletal disorder (WMSD) was more costly and resulted in more days away from work among workers between the ages of 45 and 64, according to a new study published in the April 23, 2021, issue of CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR). While examining the rates and costs of WMSD workers’ compensation claims resulting from overexertion among Ohio construction workers, researchers also found that the prevalence of WMSD claims from overexertion was highest among workers aged 35-44 years. The authors of the study suggest that ergonomic design improvements and age-specific risk communication may be necessary to prevent WMSDs among construction workers.

While the rate of WMSD claims per 10,000 full-time employees (FTEs) was highest for the 35-44 age group, followed by the 45-54 and 25-34 age groups, the report states that the severity of WMSDs caused by overexertion increased with age, peaking among those 55-64 years of age. The 45-54 age group experienced the highest percentage of claims that cost at least 100 workdays, the highest dollar-amount cost per claim, and the highest cost in dollars per FTE.

According to the MMWR, this study’s findings are consistent with other studies that have found the rate for overexertion-related WMSDs first rises and then falls with workers’ age. The authors suggest that this may be because older workers may shift to jobs with reduced risk for WMSDs and because workers experiencing severe pain retire early. The study found that while construction workers of all age groups in Ohio were affected by WMSDs, older workers experienced more severe injuries that were also more likely to affect the spinal discs and upper extremities.

For more information, refer to the report.