Short-term disability leaves are more costly than leaves for physical health reasons, according to a study published in a recent issue of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.
The study was conducted with multi-year data from a Canadian resource company comprised of over 12,000 unique non-seasonal employees. Short-term disability was defined as five or more continuous sick days. The top five categories identified, in order of rate of prevalence, were respiratory disorders, mental health behavioural disorders (including substance use), musculoskeletal problems, injury and digestive disorders.
In spite of the fact that they are not the most prevalent reason for disability leaves, mental health behavioural disorders are the most costly at $18,000 per episode. The authors caution that this amount is likely an underestimation as worker replacement costs were not factored in. Mental health behavioural disorders also accounted for the most time off work at an average of 67 days (compared to an average of 34 days across the disability spectrum). In addition, women had the most claims in this category, as did workers between the ages of 40 and 49.
This study fills a gap in knowledge about short-term disability claims and also suggests the need for interventions to reduce workplace costs in this area.
See “Examining the Comparative Incidence and Costs of Physical and Mental Health-Related Disabilities in an Employed Population,” Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (July 2010; 52: 758-762), available at journals.lww.com/joem.