Biopsychosocial Considerations in Unnecessary Work Disability

Garson M. Caruso

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


The current definition and management of medical conditions causing impairment and unnecessary disability in workers' compensation (WC) systems are suboptimal. Fundamental problems include the failure to recognize and address the unique biopsychosocial diathesis of each individual; the powerful influence of human psychology in the genesis, perpetuation, and refractoriness to treatment of many conditions, including medically unexplained symptoms and chronic pain; the work relevance of even non-work-related conditions; the considerable effects of administrative and clinical iatrogenicity; and the plethora of complex factors potentially affecting the course of conditions treated in WC systems. Once claims are established in WC, administrative and medical management of both identifiable pathologic conditions and unexplained symptoms are fragmented, not based on available scientific evidence, and adherent to a biomedical care approach which is not appropriate for a significant number of cases. These obstacles prevent effective understanding and management of many WC cases and may contribute to eventual recovery failure and unnecessary work disability (UWD). This article explores biopsychosocial factors in WC claimants and elements that may contribute to or ameliorate progression to UWD. The author offers a heuristic diathesis stress model of work-related disability as a framework for general and specific interventions to improve system performance and outcomes for all stakeholders.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)164-182
Number of pages19
JournalPsychological Injury and Law
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Beliefs
  • Biopsychosocial
  • Causation
  • Chronic pain
  • Diathesis stress model
  • Disability
  • Fear avoidance
  • Human illness
  • Iatrogenicity
  • Impairment
  • Medically unexplained symptoms
  • Psychobehavioral
  • Unnecessary work disability
  • Work disability
  • Work related
  • Work relevant
  • Workers compensation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Law


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