A new review of court records indicates that ongoing back pain results in a lower quality of life in the years that workers settle claims for painful, on-the-job back injuries.
“Regardless of the settlement that you receive, if you continue to experience pain, our findings indicate you will often get worse over time—worse in ways that can lead to the loss of a home, lead to family disruptions and even lead to divorce,” said Raymond Tait, Ph.D., professor of psychiatry at Saint Louis University, in a university press release.
Tait and his colleague, John Chibnall, Ph.D., a professor of psychiatry at the university, analyzed court records of 1,475 African-Americans and non-Hispanic whites who settled Missouri workers’ compensation claims in St. Louis City and County, and Jackson County, which includes Kansas City.
“There are many casualties in the current system. Those casualties can leave people worse than we previously believed, and at a cost to society that appears pretty high,” said Tait. “Our research shows those who are African-American, at lower income levels, young or all of the above have the greatest problems, and these problems escalate over time.”
The findings indicate previous research that took a short-term view of outcomes for those who had workers’ compensation settlements for back injuries underestimated the magnitude of the difficulties ahead, particularly for younger and African-American workers, the press release noted.
The pattern reinforced a sobering disparity revealed by the team’s previous research: African-Americans received less treatment and had poorer outcomes than non-Hispanic whites.
Workers who were younger than 35 also had significantly more financial problems than those who were middle-aged and older.
The review ran in the August issue of Spine.