Work Injuries and Illnesses by Age

Detailed nonfatal data for 2021 are not currently available.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) is transitioning from an annual to a biennial (every two years) publication schedule.  The final publication of a single year of cases involving days away from work estimates is for reference year 2020. In the fall of 2023, BLS will publish detailed data covering 2021 and 2022 for both Days Away from Work (DAFW) and for Days of Job Transfer or Restriction (DJTR) cases.

The age demographics of employed workers has shifted since 2011, with the U.S. population growing older. Compared to 2011, the proportion of employees age 55 and older has grown, while the proportion of employees in the 35-54 age range has decreased.

  • Chart
  • Data Table

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, injury and illness trends involving days away from work by age group clearly showed a consistent increase in the number of injuries and illnesses impacting workers 55 and older. At the same time, many younger age groups showed a consistent downward trend (from ages 25 to 54). These trends reflected the overall changes in employee age demographics. However, in 2020 all age groups experienced an increase in the number of cases involving days away from work. This increase was a result of 390,020 COVID-19 cases (coded as: other diseases due to viruses, n.e.c.) representing 33% of all cases involving days away from work.  The COVID-19 cases are reflected in the interactive chart in the following ways:

  • Event – Exposure to harmful substances or environments overtook overexertion as the leading injury or illness event.
  • Body part – Body systems rose from the sixth most impacted body part reported in 2019 to the leading body part reported in 2020.
  • Nature – Other diseases due to viruses, n.e.c. is the most frequent nature of injury or illness reported in 2020. No cases were reported in 2019.

Beyond the COVID-19 related changes experienced in 2020, age impacts worker injury and illness risk in several ways. Comparing injury rates using the interactive chart, the following age group differences are apparent:

  • Compared to all age groups, workers aged 16 to 19 experience:
    • Higher contact with object and equipment rates
    • Higher rates of injuries and illnesses involving both upper and lower extremities
    • Higher cut, laceration, and puncture injury rates
  • Compared to all age groups, workers aged 55 to 64 experience:
    • Higher fall, slip, or trip injury rates
  • Compared to all age groups, workers aged 65 and over experience:
    • Higher COVID-19 (other diseases due to viruses, n.e.c.) illness rates

Use this interactive chart to make comparisons between two employee age groups. Data are available for both number and rate of nonfatal injuries and illnesses involving days away from work in the private sector. Please note, injury rate data are limited and will only appear in the chart when available.

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  • Data Table
How to Use Injury Facts® Charts and Tables

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor,  from