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J Occup Rehabil. 2012 Mar;22(1):118-26. doi: 10.1007/s10926-011-9326-0.

Predicting return to work in workers with all-cause sickness absence greater than 4 weeks: a prospective cohort study.

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  • 1Diagnostics and Treatment, Netherlands Institute of Mental Health and Addiction, Utrecht, The Netherlands. mvlasveld@trimbos.nl



Long-term sickness absence is a major public health and economic problem. Evidence is lacking for factors that are associated with return to work (RTW) in sick-listed workers. The aim of this study is to examine factors associated with the duration until full RTW in workers sick-listed due to any cause for at least 4 weeks.


In this cohort study, health-related, personal and job-related factors were measured at entry into the study. Workers were followed until 1 year after the start of sickness absence to determine the duration until full RTW. Cox proportional hazards regression analyses were used to calculate hazard ratios (HR).


Data were collected from N = 730 workers. During the first year after the start of sickness absence, 71% of the workers had full RTW, 9.1% was censored because they resigned, and 19.9% did not have full RTW. High physical job demands (HR .562, CI .348-.908), contact with medical specialists (HR .691, CI .560-.854), high physical symptoms (HR .744, CI .583-.950), moderate to severe depressive symptoms (HR .748, CI .569-.984) and older age (HR .776, CI .628-.958) were associated with a longer duration until RTW in sick-listed workers.


Sick-listed workers with older age, moderate to severe depressive symptoms, high physical symptoms, high physical job demands and contact with medical specialists are at increased risk for a longer duration of sickness absence. OPs need to be aware of these factors to identify workers who will most likely benefit from an early intervention.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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