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Gender Differences in Work Disability Duration in British Columbia

Principal Investigator: Dr. Mieke Koehoorn (Co-Investigators: Drs. Christopher McLeod, Sheilah Hogg-Johnson, Katherine Lippel)

Status: Ongoing

Disparities exist in health-care access/utilization and health outcomes by gender, including for work-related injury and illness. To address these disparities requires a better understanding of how gender may influence risk factors, injury/illness processes or access to care and benefits. The purpose of this study was to investigate differences in wage-loss days for workers’ compensation claims among men and women in British Columbia working in the same occupation and for the same workplace injury type.

Dr. Mieke Koehoorn and colleagues research included all accepted workers’ compensation claims for short-term disability (injury or illness resulting in at least one day away from work) for workers aged 15–64 years for the period 2001–2011.The outcome variable for analysis was wage-loss days, defined as the number of short-term disability days paid, censored at 365 days as a clinically relevant time window of interest. Models were stratified for males and females within injury and occupational groups, adjusted for age, occupation, previous claim status, low income status, and dependents in the home.

Among a total of 539,062 short-term disability claims included in the final analytic sample, 34 per cent of these claims occurred among women. Overall, the median number of wage-loss days was similar for men and women at the 25th and 50th percentile of the distribution, but was higher among women than men at the 75th percentile. This gender difference persisted in adjusted models for men and women in the same occupation group with the same type of injury; including, for example, for fractures among manufacturing labourers (85 days for women compared to 62 days for men), back strain injuries among nursing personnel (58 days versus 45 days), and musculoskeletal disorders (e.g. bursitis, tendonitis) among food and beverage workers in the service sector (86 days versus 64 days).

Researchers concluded that gender differences in work disability, with longer durations observed among women, persisted across similar occupation and injury type groups adjusted for sociodemographic variables, in particular at the 75th percentile of the distribution (those with the longer duration of claim). Factors associated with longer duration among women warrant further investigation in terms of differences in sociodemographics, severity of injury, co-morbidities, return-to-work options, or health care/rehabilitation services.

Health research in the heart of Vancouver