Economic stability, or the lack thereof, can have a significant impact on a person’s health. Studies have proven that economic factors that cause hardship in a person’s life - such as poverty, a lack of adequate housing, and food insecurity - are also detrimental to their overall health, contributing to downstream health impacts such as comorbidities, mental health concerns, and other factors.
When health problems stemming from economic instability accumulate, they can impact the lives of workers’ comp patients, further complicating their course of care. In order to best assist patients, it is of benefit to understand the impact economic instability can have on patients’ lives, care, and health.
Four Facets of Economic Stability
As a social determinant of health (SDoH), economic stability is composed of the four following components:
- Employment Status
- Housing Stability
- Food Security
Employment status is directly tied to one’s overall health. First and foremost, unemployed individuals often have less access to healthcare. Health concerns that fall outside of workers’ comp may not receive necessary attention, as individuals in need of help lack the insurance and/or finances to pay for medical care.
Second, unemployment can contribute to negative mental health impacts. Individuals lacking structure, a routine, sense of purpose or identity may develop feelings of worthlessness. These emotions can be made worse when combined with financial anxieties and can contribute to depression or other mental health concerns.
Even light duty work has been demonstrated to contribute to more positive workers’ comp outcomes. Having something to wake up to is greatly beneficial to overall health, and the social element of work can be good for mental health. Additionally, depending on available light duty opportunities, light duty can function as a form of occupational therapy for workers recovering from a workplace injury. Unemployed individuals do not have the option to incorporate a light duty component in their recovery.
Unemployment can be associated with the development or exacerbation of a range of health issues, any one of which can impact care among injured worker patients, creating a spectrum of cascading health consequences and potential comorbidities.
Health Issues Associated with Unemployment
- Anxiety, depression, and other mental health concerns
- Physical pain
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- High-risk coping with alcohol, tobacco, or substance use