Sarasota, FL (WorkersCompensation.com) – While an injury may be work related,factors beyond work environment and clinical management play a role in recovery. Lifestyle and psychological factors can have an impact as well on not only outcomes and recovery, but also returning to social and work activities. While recovery is partially driven by the expectations of the treatment team, friends and family, fellow employees, and even society play a role as well.
It’s not uncommon for workers that have filed a workers compensation claim to feel somewhat stigmatized for reporting the injury. Dealing with the pain, limitations, and missed work is a job in itself, but the stress of added suspicion and scorn can compound those injuries and impede outcomes. It’s also not uncommon for those same workers to seek out online avenues for support and connection.
In an attempt to understand the factors outside of usual case management, Australian researchers set out to determine the reasons behind why injured workers seek out online communities, and to determine how those connections relate to recovery.
The researchers performed a netnographic analysis of public anonymous message boards. A total of 141 people were followed as they engaged in conversation across 47 threads on 4 Australian online forums. The themes observed by researchers included how injured workers were using the communities to make decisions, get support, and solve problems. Researchers noted the top motivators behind engagement included seeking information, connection, or justice. Establishment of relationships was a key mediator for each of the parameters.
The researchers noted that there was a preference for web-like sites as opposed to usual social media platforms such as Instagram, Tik-Tok, etc. Although black humor was common, there was less use of memes and gifs as is common in social online communities. Researchers also noted diary like posts with factual information. However the anonymity of the posting platforms would make it difficult for employers, investigators or lawyers to identify.
The majority of those individuals that posted on the forums described complex injuries. Less engagement was noted by those with straightforward claims. While a need for validation drove the model of interaction, researchers noted a consistent intent for justice, validation, and connection or combinations of all three.
Advice was seldom given without also giving empathy or validation to the poster. The combination of seeking advice while receiving validation fueled the engagement and development of relationships within the groups.
The researchers stated that some studies indicate that perceptions of fairness play a role in health outcomes for those with compensable injuries. In fact, individuals in the online communities often mentioned the importance of acknowledgement or an apology for their work related injury.
Individuals also frequently mentioned their difficulties in navigating the insurance or health system. One poster stated, “It’s like they [insurance companies] want us to die to avoid paying out”. Another posted, “I feel like dealing with them is going to break me”.
While the researchers concluded that the use of online communities to seek information and problem solve suggests a capacity for self-management and self-care after work-related injury, the study gives some great insight into struggles potentially missed in case management.