Socioeconomically disadvantaged blacks have the worst long-term outcomes from work-related low back pain

Research Activities, June 2010, No. 358

Individuals sometimes face long-term pain, unemployment, or must receive Social Security disability as a result of a job injury resulting in low back pain. Economically disadvantaged blacks have the hardest time adjusting 6 or more years after their Workers' Compensation (WC) settlement, reveals a new study. John T. Chibnall, Ph.D., and Raymond C. Tait, Ph.D., of Saint Louis University School of Medicine, identified 171 black and 203 white WC claimants for low back pain. All had their claims settled in Missouri during 2001 and the first 5 months of 2002. On average, participants were 72.3 months postsettlement. The individuals were interviewed by telephone about their pain intensity, its interference with activities, level of disability, and their mental health status.

Levels of adjustment to low back pain assessed at 6 years were comparable with those assessed more than 4 years earlier. However, lower socioeconomic status, black race, and poorer early adjustment were associated with poorer long-term adjustment. Such individuals were found to have higher levels of pain, pain-related disability, and catastrophizing (tendency to think the worst when one is in pain).

Black claimants also had higher rates of occupational disability, as evidenced by long-term unemployment and receipt of Social Security disability. This analysis also took into account other mediating factors such as patient age, sex, diagnosis, surgery, and initial disability rating. If the purpose of the WC system is to provide equal access to effective medical treatment and case resolution that enables a fresh start, the present system merits fundamental change, conclude the researchers. Their study was supported in part by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (HS13087 and HS14007).

See "Long-term adjustment to work-related low back pain: Associations with socio-demographics, claim processes, and post-settlement adjustment," by Drs. Chibnall and Tait, in Pain Medicine 10(8), pp. 1378-1388, 2009.

Current as of June 2010
Internet Citation: Socioeconomically disadvantaged blacks have the worst long-term outcomes from work-related low back pain: Research Activities, June 2010, No. 358. June 2010. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. http://archive.ahrq.gov/news/newsletters/research-activities/jun10/0610RA9.html