Mental stigma? Workers less likely to claim for psychological illness

26 August, 2012

Research has found workers are significantly less likely to claim GP visits for psychological illnesses on workers' compensation than they are for physical work-related injuries such as musculoskeletal disorders.

Conducted the University of Sydney and the Institute for Safety, Compensation and Recovery Research (ISCRR) the research examined 486,400 general practitioner consultations around Australia recorded in the BEACH (Bettering the Evaluation and Care of Health) research program between April 2004 and March 2009.
In these consultations, the doctor recorded whether the patient's health problem was work-related and whether the visit was being claimed through workers' compensation.
Over 22 per cent of workers did not make compensation claims even though their GP had determined the illness was work-related.
"There are a number of reasons we are seeing work-related conditions not being claimed," said Dr Alex Collie, ISCRR's Chief Research Officer who conceived the research.
"It could be that workers are less willing to claim for psychological conditions compared with physical conditions because of potential for stigma in the workplace. Workers may also be unaware they can make a workers' compensation claim."
The findings also suggest that the decision to make a compensation claim may be influenced by a worker's jurisdiction.
Claims were much more likely to be made in major cities and inner regional areas compared with outer regional and very remote regions, with 39 per cent of work-related GP consultations not claimed in remote regions compared with 23 per cent in major cities.
Dr Helena Britt from the Family Medicine Research Centre at the University of Sydney said this was one of the first investigations into the nature of GP treated occupational health problems that are claimed and not claimed through workers' compensation.
"Assessment and management of work-related health problems are an important part of a GP's role. The BEACH dataset we used allowed us to analyse the wide range of problems that GPs judge to be work-related," she said.
"It's a very unique dataset and the only one like it that exists in the world."
This article was published in the online International Journal of Social Security and Workers Compensation.
ISCRR is a joint venture between Monash University, WorkSafe Victoria and the Transport Accident Commission.