Social Determinants of Health Lead to a Rise in Workers Compensation Claims

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines social determinants of health (SDOH) as conditions in the places where people live, learn, work and play that affect a wide range of health and quality-of life risks and outcomes. Simply put, social determinants of health are the nonmedical factors that influence health outcomes.

Today, a number of social determinants are having a significant impact on mental-health-related issues that, in turn, are affecting injured workers recoveries, the potential for returning to work and workers compensation (WC) claims.  Social determinants to health can be attributed to factors such as: 

  • Workplace conditions
  • Social support networks
  • Physical environments
  • Coping skills
  • Education
  • Health services
  • Income and social status

To most employers, these factors may not immediately come to mind when describing mental health risks. However, there is growing research that supports the fact that social determinants of health are creating mental health issues that can and are compromising injured workers recoveries.

“Most people are under an extreme level of stress and uncertainty, which has negatively impacted overall mental health on a large scale. Unfortunately, lack of awareness and effective treatment of mental health issues also play a part in compromising recovery for individuals. [For this reason], it is important to understand the risk factors that could compromise the successful recovery of an injured worker,” Jennifer Cogbill, Senior Vice President of GBCARE Client Services at Gallagher Bassett said during an interview with MyNewMarkets.

Just like any other business, workplace injuries for nonprofit organizations affect employer and productivity costs. In addition, time away from work due to an on-the-job injury also affects an employee’s income — creating financial difficulties, stress, anxiety and depression. In turn, long-term absences from work can exacerbate these issues, leading to workers feeling isolated and even losing their sense of purpose and identity.

Nonprofits with employees need to recognize that while an injured worker’s recovery depends on timely and appropriate medical care, it is also impacted by social determinants of health. In fact, according to Safety National’s Conference Chronicles, 80% of an employee’s recovery is largely determined or influenced by factors outside of the clinical setting.

Targeted clinical advocacy as a tool

With ongoing issues regarding COVID-19, civil unrest and looming economic challenges, experts agree that the best approach for reducing WC claims is getting workers back on the job as quickly as possible. However, when employees are injured on the job and must be out of work, they may worry about things such as their loss of income, paying their rent/mortgage, affording food or even getting to their next medical appointment. This excessive worry can lead to depression and/or a lack of interest in rehabilitation, which can delay the overall recovery time. 

Clinical advocacy is about partnering with an injured worker to identify their care needs, and then creating an individualized recovery plan. According to MyNewMarkets, this method is an effective tool because it looks at the whole person to better understand the impact of a work-related injury and how the employee can be better supported during their recovery.

However, in addressing certain social factors linked to WC injuries, poor health and returning to work is typically beyond the scope of a nonprofit’s HR department. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, those who are delving into providing solutions for social determinants and mental health issues believe that in order for things to change, it will require a socially conscious investment and new public policies.


While social conditions of determinants play a substantial role in an employees’ well-being, addressing these issues through a company benefits program will continue to be a challenge. However, there is change ahead, as more awareness is being raised regarding the connection between social determents of mental health and WC claim costs. 

About Charity First

When it comes to working with nonprofits, we understand that your clients are often asked to do more with less. It’s why we’ve always made it our goal to provide your clients with more insurance options and protection at an affordable cost. From broadened coverage for general liability to workers compensation, we’re committed to consistently providing best-in-class underwriting and risk management services. To learn more about our products, please contact us at 800-352-2761 or