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Am J Ind Med. 2001 Oct;40(4):464-84.

Determinants of duration of disability and return-to-work after work-related injury and illness: challenges for future research.

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Division of Epidemiology, School of Public Health, University of California at Berkeley, 745 University Hall, Berkeley, CA 94720-7360, USA.



The purpose of this review was to identify critical data and research needs in addressing the following question: What are the primary factors that affect the time lost from work, return-to-work (RTW), subsequent unemployment, and changes in occupation after disabling illness or injury?


Review of the literature to identify research challenges originating from the multitude of disciplines, data sources, outcome measures, and methodological and analytical problems.


About 100 different determinants of RTW outcomes were identified. Their impact varies across different phases of the disablement process. Recommendations are provided for addressing five selected research challenges.


Interdisciplinary research needs to develop a comprehensive conceptual framework. Priority should be given to studies on specific domains of risk factors meeting five selection criteria: amenability to change; relevance to users of research; generalizability across health conditions, disability phases, and settings; "degree of promise" as derived from qualitative exploratory studies; and capacity to improve measurement instruments. Combining qualitative and quantitative research methods is necessary to bridge existing knowledge gaps.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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