Waltham, MA, March 28, 2024―A new study from the Workers Compensation Research Institute found that workers’ compensation patients had a higher prevalence of psychosocial risk factors than private insurance patients, and a stronger association between psychosocial risk factors and functional outcomes.

“Despite the growing recognition of the importance of psychosocial factors in recovery, there remains a lack of comprehensive understanding of their prevalence, impact, and potential interventions, especially within the workers’ compensation system. This study aims to fill some of these gaps,” said Sebastian Negrusa, vice president of research at WCRI.

Psychosocial risk factors include poor recovery expectations after an injury, fear avoidance, poor coping, catastrophizing, and perceived injustice. Some studies have documented that psychosocial factors are a strong predictor of adverse outcomes in patients. These psychosocial risk factors, which often prolong disability and return to work, especially for musculoskeletal injuries, are also referred to as “yellow flags.”

Since early identification of psychosocial risk factors is recommended by occupational medical treatment and disability guidelines, the study, Importance of Psychosocial Factors for Physical Therapy Outcomes, seeks to determine their prevalence and their association with recovery in workers’ compensation and non-workers’ compensation patients. The following are among the questions the study addresses:

  • How prevalent are psychosocial risk factors in low back pain patients receiving physical therapy in workers’ compensation?
  • Does the prevalence of these factors vary across different payor types and patient groups?
  • Do patients, with and without psychosocial risk factors, recover differently?
  • To what extent do the psychosocial risk factors explain differences in physical therapy outcomes observed between workers’ compensation and non-workers’ compensation patients?

Click here for more information on this study or to purchase a copy. Vennela Thumula, Te-Chun Liu, and Randall D. Lea authored this study.

About WCRI:

The Workers Compensation Research Institute (WCRI) is an independent, not-for-profit research organization based in Waltham, MA. Organized in 1983, the Institute does not take positions on the issues it researches; rather, it provides information obtained through studies and data collection efforts, which conform to recognized scientific methods. Objectivity is further ensured through rigorous, unbiased peer review procedures. WCRI's diverse membership includes employers; insurers; governmental entities; managed care companies; health care providers; insurance regulators; state labor organizations; and state administrative agencies in the U.S., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.


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