Purpose Mental health concerns are common after a workplace injury, particularly amongst those making a compensation claim. Yet there is a lack of research exploring the effect of modifiable elements of the return-to-work process on mental health. The aim of this study is to examine the impact of perceived injustice in the interactions between claim agents and claimants on mental health symptoms in the 12-month following a musculoskeletal (MSK) workplace injury. Methods A cohort of 585 workers compensation claimants in Victoria, Australia were interviewed three times over a 12-month period following a workplace MSK injury. Perceptions of informational and interpersonal justice in claim agent interactions were measured at baseline, and the Kessler Psychological Distress (K6) scale was administered as a measure of mental health at all three timepoints. Path analyses were performed to examine the direct and indirect effects of perceived justice at baseline on concurrent and future mental health, after accounting for confounding variables. Results Each 1-unit increase in perceptions of informational and interpersonal justice, indicating poorer experiences, was associated with an absolute increase of 0.16 and 0.18 in respective K6 mental health score at baseline, indicating poorer mental health on a 5-point scale. In addition, perceived justice indirectly impacted mental health at 6-month and 12-month, through sustained negative impact from baseline as well as increased risk of disagreements between the claim agent and claimant. Conclusions This finding has highlighted the importance of perceived justice in claim agent interactions with claimants in relation to mental health following a work-related MSK injury.
Occupational injuries Workers’ compensation claim Mental health Perceived injustice
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.
This study was supported through a Linkage Grant through the Australian Research Council (Grant # LP130100091). Peter Smith was supported by a Discovery Early Career Research Award, and is currently supported through a Research Chair in Gender, Work and Health from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. This study was approved by the Monash University Human Research Ethics Committee.
Written informed consent was obtained from all patients included in the study.
Takala J, Hämäläinen P, Saarela KL, et al. Global estimates of the burden of injury and illness at work in 2012. J Occup Environ Hyg. 2014;11(5):326–337.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kim J. Depression as a psychosocial consequence of occupational injury in the US working population: findings from the medical expenditure panel survey. BMC Public Health. 2013;13(1):303.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Carnide N, Franche RL, Hogg-Johnson S, et al. Course of depressive symptoms following a workplace injury: a 12-month follow-up update. J Occup Rehabil. 2016;26(2):204–215.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Keogh JP, Nuwayhid I, Gordon JL, et al. The impact of occupational injury on injured worker and family: outcomes of upper extremity cumulative trauma disorders in Maryland workers. Am J Ind Med. 2000;38(5):498–506.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Chin WS, Shiao JSC, Liao SC, et al. Depressive, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorders at six years after occupational injuries. Eur Arch Psychiatry Clin Neurosci. 2017;267(6):507–516.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Corbiere M, Sullivan MJL, Stanish WD, et al. Pain and depression in injured workers and their return to work: a longitudinal study. Can J Behav Sci. 2007;39(1):23–31.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Dong XS, Wang X, Largay JA, et al. Long-term health outcomes of work-related injuries among construction workers-findings from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth. Am J Ind Med. 2015;58(3):308–318.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Dozois DJA, Dobson KS, Wong M, et al. Factors associated with rehabilitation outcome in patients with low back pain (LBP): prediction of employment outcome at 9-month follow-up. Rehabil Psychol. 1995;40(4):243–259.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kendrick D, Dhiman P, Kellezi B, et al. Psychological morbidity and return to work after injury: multicentre cohort study. Br J Gen Pract. 2017;67(661):e555–e564.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lötters F, Franche RL, Hogg-Johnson S, et al. The prognostic value of depressive symptoms, fear-avoidance, and self-efficacy for duration of lost-time benefits in workers with musculoskeletal disorders. Occup Environ Med. 2006;63(12):794–801.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Elbers NA, Hulst L, Cuijpers P, et al. Do compensation processes imipair mental health? A meta-analysis. Injury. 2013;44(5):674–683.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Murgatroyd DF, Casey PP, Cameron ID, et al. The effect of financial compensation on health outcomes following musculoskeletal injury: systematic review. PLoS ONE. 2015;10(2):e0117597.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Grant GM, O’Donnell ML, Spittal MJ, et al. Relationship between stressfulness of claiming for injury compensation and long-term recovery: a prospective cohort study. JAMA Psychiatry. 2014;71(4):446–453.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
O’Donnell ML, Grant G, Alkemade N, et al. Compensation seeking and disability after injury: the role of compensation-related stress and mental health. J Clin Psychiatry. 2015;76(8):e1000–e1005.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Murgatroyd DF, Cameron ID, Harris IA. Understanding the effect of compensation on recovery from severe motor vehicle crash injuries: a qualitative study. Inj Prev. 2011;17(4):222–227.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Adams JS. Inequity in social exchange. In: Berkowitz L, editor. Advances in experimental social psychology, vol. 2. New York: Academic Press; 1965. p. 267–299.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Thibaut JW, Walker L. Procedural justice: a psychological analysis. Hillsdale: L. Erlbaum Associates; 1975.Google Scholar
Bies RJ, Moag JF. Interactional justice: communication criteria of fairness. In: Lewicki RJ, Sheppard BH, Bazerman MH, editors. Research on negotiations in organizations, vol. 1. Greenwich: JAI Press; 1986. pp. 43–55.Google Scholar
Greenberg J. Organizational justice: yesterday, today, and tomorrow. J Manag. 1990;16(2):399–432.Google Scholar
Ndjaboué R, Brisson C, Vézina M. Organisational justice and mental health: a systematic review of prospective studies. Occ Environ Med. 2012;69(10):694–700.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Scott W, Trost Z, Milioto M, et al. Barriers to change in depressive symptoms after multidisciplinary rehabilitation for whiplash: the role of perceived injustice. Clin J Pain. 2015;31(2):145–151.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Sullivan MJL, Thibault P, Simmonds MJ, et al. Pain, perceived injustice and the persistence of post-traumatic stress symptoms during the course of rehabilitation for whiplash injuries. Pain. 2009;145(3):325–331.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ioannou L, Braaf S, Cameron P, et al. Compensation system experience at 12 months after road or workplace injury in Victoria, Australia. Psychol Inj Law. 2016;9(4):376–389.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Dimitriadis C, LaMontagne AD, Lilley R, et al. Cohort profile: workers’ compensation in a changing Australian labour market: the return to work (RTW) study. BMJ Open. 2017;7(11):e016366.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kessler RC, Barker PR, Colpe LJ, et al. Screening for serious mental illness in the general population. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2003;60(2):184–189.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Furukawa TA, Kessler RC, Slade T, et al. The performance of the K6 and K10 screening scales for psychological distress in the Australian National Survey of Mental Health and Well-Being. Psychol Med. 2003;33(2):357–362.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Slade T, Grove R, Burgess P. Kessler psychological distress scale: normative data from the 2007 Australian National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing. Aust N Z J Psychiatry. 2011;45(4):308–316.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Franche RL, Severin CN, Lee H, et al. Perceived justice of compensation process for return-to-work: development and validation of a scale. Psychol Inj Law. 2009;2(3):225–237.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Colquitt JA. On the dimensionality of organizational justice: a construct validation of a measure. J Appl Psychol. 2001;86(3):386–400.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Newman DA. Missing data: five practical guidelines. Org Res Methods. 2014;17(4):372–411.CrossRefGoogle Scholar