September 5, 2018

Massachusetts Study Links Occupation to Opioid Overdose Deaths

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health released Opioid-related Overdose Deaths in Massachusetts by Industry and Occupation, 2011-2015, a study that examined state death certificates to categorize opioid-related overdose deaths by industry and occupation.

The rate of fatal opioid-related overdose was higher among workers employed in industries known to have high rates of work-related injuries, as use of prescribed opioids for management of acute and chronic pain following work-related injury was more common. This insight could help payers, employers, and other workers’ comp stake holders to make program adjustments that could benefit these at-risk employees.

The opioid-related death rate for those employed in construction and extraction was six times the average rate for all Massachusetts workers, with 26.8% of all opioid overdose deaths tied to construction workers, totaling 4,302 fatalities. Opioid-related death rates for those employed in the farming, fishing, and forestry occupation group was five times the average rate for all Massachusetts workers, however, this group only experienced 61 deaths within the study period, or 1.6% of all opioid overdose deaths.

The study also found that employees with lower availability of sick leave and lower job security were more likely to work while in pain, increasing the likelihood of opioid misuse, which likely contributed to increased rates of opioid overdose.

According to Business Insurance, the Department is now planning a larger study that will merge data from the workers’ compensation system with multiple health data sets to characterize the risk of fatal and nonfatal opioid overdose among injured workers.

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