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Compensation Seeking and Disability After Injury: The Role of Compensation-Related Stress and Mental Health

J Clin Psychiatry 2015;76(8):e1000–e1005

Objective: Claiming for compensation after injury is associated with poor health outcomes. This study examined the degree to which compensation-related stress predicts long-term disability and the mental health factors that contribute to this relationship.

Method: In a longitudinal, multisite cohort study, 332 injury patients (who claimed for compensation) recruited from April 2004 to February 2006 were assessed during hospitalization and at 3 and 72 months after injury. Posttraumatic stress, depression, and anxiety symptoms (using the Mini-International Neuropsychiatric Interview) were assessed at 3 months; compensation-related stress and disability levels (using the World Health Organization Disability Assessment Schedule II) were assessed at 72 months.

Results: A significant direct relationship was found between levels of compensation-related stress and levels of long-term disability (β = 0.35, P < .001). Three-month posttraumatic stress symptoms had a significant relationship with compensation-related stress (β = 0.29, P < .001) as did 3-month depression symptoms (β = 0.39, P < .001), but 3-month anxiety symptoms did not. A significant indirect relationship was found for posttraumatic stress symptoms and disability via compensation stress (β = 0.099, P = .001) and for depression and disability via compensation stress (β = 0.136, P < .001).

Conclusions: Stress associated with seeking compensation is significantly related to long-term disability. Posttraumatic stress and depression symptoms increase the perception of stress associated with the claims process, which in turn is related to higher levels of long-term disability. Early interventions targeting those at risk for compensation-related stress may decrease long-term costs for compensation schemes.