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Injured workers’ perception of loss and gain in the return to work process

Authors Lai HS, Szeto GPY, Chan CCH

Received 10 August 2016

Accepted for publication 17 November 2016

Published 7 February 2017 Volume 2017:10 Pages 7—16


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single anonymous peer review

Peer reviewer comments 3

Editor who approved publication: Professor Frank Papatheofanis

Hon Sun Lai,1,2 Grace PY Szeto,1 Chetwyn CH Chan3

1Department of Rehabilitation Sciences, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, 2Total Rehabilitation Management (Hong Kong) Limited, 3Applied Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory, Department of Rehabilitation Sciences, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong

Abstract: When a worker is injured at work, he has to face a tough decision-making process about when and how to return to work (RTW). This study tests how the prospect theory can be applied to influence the injured workers’ perceptions about this important choice. One hundred forty-one injured workers were presented with wage- and pain-related information in four different message framing (negatively or positively) and precision (smaller or larger number) conditions. After exposure to the specific combination of this wage and pain information, the participants were asked to express intentions to RTW in terms of perceived chance, confidence, and anticipated sick leave duration. When asked to predict their RTW outcome, 101 participants (72.3%) responded favorably, whereas only 40 (27.7%) indicated an expectation for staying on sick leave. The present results did not show significant differences in the participants’ responses to the positively and negatively framed information about wage and pain. However, it was noted that the control group that was presented with positive framing for both “wage” and “pain” information showed higher scores in expectation and confidence for RTW, whereas the Ambivalent Group that had both negative messages showed lower scores. Seventy-nine participants who had ≥60% perceived improvement in condition were selected for further analysis, and those who were presented with “wage loss” information rated significantly higher perceived chance of RTW than those in the “pain gain” group. More in-depth investigation is warranted on this topic, with a larger sample of injured workers to investigate the effects of message framing on the decision-making process about RTW.

Keywords: wages, injury, compensation, rehabilitation

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