Occupational posttraumatic stress disorder and workplace violence in workers’ compensation claims

Kerri Wizner, Katherine Cunningham, Fraser W. Gaspar, Carolyn S. Dewa, Brad Grunert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Acts of violence are the fifth leading cause of nonfatal occupational injuries in the United States. Experiencing a traumatic event at work can have serious mental health consequences, including the development of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This study aimed to quantify the prevalence of PTSD caused by workplace violence (WPV) in a statewide workers’ compensation system and compare the outcomes and treatment of WPV cases versus those caused by other traumatic events. Using a retrospective cohort study design, workers who reported PTSD as the primary reason for a workers’ compensation claim and had no coexisting physical injuries were found in California during 2009–2018. A total of 3,772 PTSD cases were identified, 48.9% of which were attributed to WPV. Demographic risk factors associated with WPV PTSD included lower income, younger age, female gender, and employment in retail or finance, p <.001–p =.007. For individuals who returned to work, claims due to WPV resulted in longer medically approved time away from work than non-WPV causes (Mdn = 132.5 days vs. Mdn = 91 days, respectively), p <.001. Three of the top 10 most frequently prescribed medications were administered against evidence-based guidelines. This study found that many treatments prescribed to PTSD patients are based on insufficient evidence, and the provision of existing empirically supported treatments is needed, particularly in generalized populations. The findings support the need for additional recognition of the cause of workplace PTSD to facilitate appropriate referrals to WPV or PTSD specialists to support return-to-work efforts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Traumatic Stress
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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