Impact of COVID‐19 on Occupational Injuries and Illnesses Among Nursing Care Facility Workers: Analysis of California Workers' Compensation Data, 2019–2021


Soo-Jeong Lee, Younghee Yun, Jeehyun Hwang, and Soson Jong

August 28, 2023

Background: The COVID‐19 pandemic greatly affected health care workers, both physically and psychologically, by increasing their workload and stress. This may also have increased their risk of occupational injuries. This study analyzed workers' compensation (WC) claims among California nursing care facility workers during 2019–2021 to assess the impact of the pandemic on occupational injury risk.

Methods: This study used data from the California Workers' Compensation Information System. WC claims in prepandemic and pandemic periods were described and compared between nursing care facilities and other settings. Nursing facility cases were described by demographic, job, and injury characteristics.

Results: In 2019–2021, we identified 41,134 claims as nursing facility cases in California. Annual claims increased by 64.6% from 2019 to 2020 and then decreased in 2021, returning to levels similar to pre‐COVID. In contrast, non‐health care settings had decreases in claims during the pandemic. COVID‐related claims accounted for 50.5% of claims in nursing facilities in 2020–2021; this proportion was much higher compared with other health care (35.7%) or no-health care settings (14.3%). Non‐COVID claims decreased during the pandemic but mental disorder or stress claims increased in nursing facilities, particularly in 2020 (+42.5%).

Conclusions: Our findings show that nursing care facilities were more severely affected by the pandemic than other settings. We did not find evidence of an increased risk of occupational injuries during the pandemic, except for increased claims for stress or mental disorders. Our findings indicate a clear need to address psychological stress and mental health among nursing facility workers during a pandemic.