Older U.S. workers are less likely to be injured at work, but the consequences of injuries are often more severe. Identification of sub-groups at increased risk of work-related injury and increased injury severity may inform and support workplace injury prevention efforts. We identified these risk groups in the US workforce using nationally-representative data.
Data from 1997-2009 National Health Interview Survey were pooled for workers in the age groups 26-54 (n=121,846) and 55+ (n=24,879). Workplace injury risk was assessed using logistic regression with adjustment for sample design. Injury severity was examined using number of work-days missed due to injury and was classified as 1) none, 2) <1, 3) 1-5, 4) >5.
Injury prevalence was 0.83% overall and 0.59% for workers aged 55+. Workers 55+ were at a lower risk for work-related injury (Odds Ratio=0.69;[95%Confidence Interval0.58-0.83]). Injury severity was not significantly different between age groups. For both age-groups, blue collar workers (age 26-54: 3.21;[2.68-3.84]; age 55+: 2.19;[1.52-3.16]) and former smokers (1.38;[1.16-1.65]; 1.71;[1.17-2.51]) had a higher injury risk. Higher severity was associated with being a service worker and having low physical activity. For workers 55+, higher severity was associated with having less than a high school education and report of being a current drinker.
Injury risk is lower in older workers, but risk of associated work-days missed is similar to that of younger workers. Identification of worker subgroups at increased risk can be used to develop targeted workplace injury prevention programs.