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Member Research and Reports

Member Research and Reports

BU: Workplace Injuries Contribute to Rise in Suicide, Overdose Deaths

Suicides and opioid overdoses have both become much more common over the last two decades, and may be driving the recent decline in U.S. life expectancy.

Now, a study co-authored by Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) researchers shows that workplace injury significantly raises a person’s risk of suicide or overdose death.

The study, published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine, found that an injury serious enough to lead to at least a week off of work almost tripled the combined risk of suicide and overdose death among women, and increased the risk by 50 percent among men.

“These findings suggest that work-related injuries contribute to the rapid increase in deaths from both opioids and suicides,” says study senior author Dr. Leslie Boden, professor of environmental health at BUSPH. “Prior research has shown that injured workers are at increased risk of depression, have been treated frequently with opioids, and have suffered long-term earnings losses. This led us to wonder whether workplace injuries led to increased opioid addiction and suicide.”

To estimate the association between workplace injury and death, Dr. Boden and his colleagues looked at 100,806 workers in New Mexico, 36,034 of whom had lost-time injuries from 1994 through 2000. The researchers used workers’ compensation data for that period, Social Security Administration earnings and mortality data through 2013, and National Death Index cause of death data through 2017.

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