Examining the comparative incidence and costs of physical and mental health-related disabilities in an employed population

Carolyn S Dewa, Nancy Chau, Stanley Dermer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


Objective: To address gaps in knowledge about disability rates and costs of short-term disability by answering the following questions: (1) what is the incidence and the costs of short-term disability episodes related to mental disorders? and (2) how do these figures compare with those of short-term disability episodes related to physical disorders? Methods: The data set comes from a Canadian resource sector company's 2003-2006 short-term disability leave and human resource data sets. The multi-year data set consists of 33,913 records for all nonseasonal employees. The study focused on all episodes that began in 2003, 2004, or 2005. There are 12,407 unique employees represented. Results: The overall disability rate was 14.5 episodes/100 person-years. The top five primary categories of disability episodes were respiratory disorder (2.3/100 person-years), musculoskeletal disorder (1.9/100 person-years), mental/behavioral disorder (2.1/100 person-years), injury (2.0/100 person-years), and digestive disorder (1.3/100 person-years). The mean disability episode was 33 days, and the mean cost was $9027/episode. Highest episode costs were associated with mental/behavioral disorder-related episodes ($18,000/episode), and the lowest costs were for respiratory disorders ($3000/episode). Conclusions: The results underscore that although disability related to mental/behavioral disorders may not comprise the largest proportion of cases, they represent the largest costs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)758-762
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2010
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Medicine(all)


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