Psychological Distress in Workers’ Compensation Claimants: Prevalence, Predictors and Mental Health Service Use

Alex Collie, Luke Sheehan, Tyler J. Lane, Ross Iles

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose To determine the prevalence and predictors of psychological distress among injured and ill workers and their mental health service use. Methods Cross-sectional national survey of adults with work-related musculoskeletal or mental health conditions, accepted workers’ compensation claims and at least 1 day off work. Psychological distress was measured using the Kessler-6 scale. Mental health service use was measured using self-report. Results A total of 3755 workers were included in the study (Musculoskeletal disorder = 3160; Mental health condition = 595). Of these, 1034 (27.5%) and 525 (14.0%) recorded moderate and severe psychological distress, respectively. Multivariate ordinal logistic regression revealed that being off work, poor general health, low work ability, financial stress, stressful interactions with healthcare providers and having diagnosed mental health conditions had the strongest associations with presence of psychological distress. Of the subgroup with musculoskeletal disorders and psychological distress (N = 1197), 325 (27.2%) reported accessing mental health services in the past four weeks. Severe psychological distress, being off work, worse general health and requiring support during claim were most strongly associated with greater odds of service use. Conclusions The prevalence of psychological distress among workers’ compensation claimants is high. Most workers with musculoskeletal disorders and psychological distress do not access mental health services. Screening, early intervention and referral programs may reduce the prevalence and impact of psychological distress.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)194–202
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Occupational Rehabilitation
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2020


  • Health services
  • Mental health
  • Musculoskeletal diseases
  • Workers’ compensation

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