The Australian Medical Association Limited and state AMA entities comply with the Privacy Act 1988. Please refer to the AMA Privacy Policy to understand our commitment to you and information on how we store and protect your data.

×

Search

×

Workers shun compensation for psychological harm

Australians are much less likely to claim workers’ compensation for treatment of psychological illnesses than for physical injuries, a study of general practitioner consultations shows. A review of more than 486,000 GP visits found that 22 per cent of workers refused to make compensation claims even though their GP had determined that their psychological illness was work-related, and these cases accounted for almost half of all instances where workers declined to use the compensation system for injuries suffered in the course of their employment.

16 Sep 2012

Australians are much less likely to claim workers’ compensation for treatment of psychological illnesses than for physical injuries, a study of general practitioner consultations shows.

A review of more than 486,000 GP visits found that 22 per cent of workers refused to make compensation claims even though their GP had determined that their psychological illness was work-related, and these cases accounted for almost half of all instances where workers declined to use the compensation system for injuries suffered in the course of their employment.

According to the study, treatment for work-related psychological problems was more than three times as likely to be unclaimed as claimed.

“Differences between claimed and unclaimed encounters may relate to the type of problem managed, in addition to severity,” the report said. “Specifically, GP encounters claimed through workers’ compensation are more likely to involve physically evident conditions such as musculoskeletal injury, and less likely to involve non-physical conditions such as psychological and social problems.”

The report’s lead author, Institute for Safety, Compensation and Recovery Research Chief Research Officer Dr Alex Collie, attributed much of this reluctance to concern among patients about how they would be treated at work if their psychological problems were revealed.

“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,” Dr Collie said.

The report found that the most common psychological illness for which workers’ compensation was claimed was depression, and suggested that failure to claim for compensation might also be due to difficulty in establishing a causal relationship between work and the ailment, as well as ignorance that compensation might be available.

“Workers and treating medical practitioners may be less aware of their ability to claim workers’ compensation benefits for psychological and social conditions than for physical conditions such as back injury,” the study, published in the International Journal of Social Security and Workers Compensation, said.

“Finally, workers may be less able to claim benefits for psychological and social conditions than for physical conditions, as some Australian jurisdictions exclude or limit the availability of workers’ compensation benefits for psychological injury.

“For example, a worker experiencing depression may continue to work with that condition and thus not meet the regulatory criteria for acceptance of a workers’ compensation claim.

“It may also be more difficult to demonstrate that work is the cause of a psychological or social condition than it is of a physical condition.”

AR


Published: 16 Sep 2012