Pain and Depression Dim Work Expectations After Whiplash

However, two-thirds of whiplash sufferers expect to return to work, while only 1.8 percent do not
By Jeff Muise
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, July 16 (HealthDay News) -- Among people who suffer whiplash-associated disorder (WAD) resulting from a car accident, those in the most pain and those with depression symptoms appear to have the lowest expectations of returning to work, according to a study in the July 1 issue of Spine.

Dejan Ozegovic, P.T., of the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada, and colleagues studied a cohort of 2,335 people who had traffic-related WAD. Each subject completed a questionnaire on their expectations for returning to work, which the researchers correlated with data on demographics, socioeconomics, accident-related factors, injury-related factors, work-related factors, and symptoms of depression. Logistic regression was used to identify those factors associated with an expectation of returning to work.

The researchers found that, overall, 66 percent of the subjects said they expected to return to their usual job, while 32.2 percent were unsure and 1.8 percent thought they would not return to their usual job. Pain was a strong factor affecting expectations. For each one-point increase in the percentage of body pain, the odds of a positive return-to-work expectation decreased by 1 percent, and for every one-point increase in the intensity rating for neck or shoulder pain, odds of a positive return-to-work expectation decreased by 16 percent. Symptoms of depression, lower education attainment, lower income, and male sex were also associated with lower expectations for returning to work.

"A number of demographic, socioeconomic, and injury-related factors were associated with expectations for return to work in WAD. Two of the strongest associated factors were depressive symptomatology and post-collision initial neck pain intensity. These results support using a biopsychosocial approach to evaluate expectancies and their influence on important health outcomes," the authors write.

Saskatchewan Government Insurance provided funding for the study. One author has received funding from Saskatchewan Government Insurance and other insurance companies for studies on traffic injuries, and another author has received funding from insurance companies for neck pain research.

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