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1.  Short-term sick leave and future risk of sickness absence and unemployment - the impact of health status 
BMC Public Health  2012;12:861.
Background
In previous studies the authors have found sick leave to be a predictor of future sick leave, unemployment and disability pension. Although sick leave reflects underlying health problems, some studies have suggested that sick leave may have consequences beyond the consequences of the underlying illness. However, few studies have aimed at studying consequences of sick leave while adjusting for ill health. This study aims to explore whether short-term sick leave increases the risk of future long-term sick leave, disability pension, and unemployment. Furthermore, we aim to control for the potentially confounding effects of physical and mental health status.
Methods
Data were gathered from the Stockholm Public Health Cohort (SPHC), restricted to 11,156 employed individuals (48.6% men) aged 18–59, without long-term sick leave, disability pension or in-patient care the year before inclusion (2002). These were followed-up with regard to unemployment, long-term sick leave, and disability pension in 2006 and 2007.
Odds ratios (OR) with corresponding 95% confidence intervals (CI) were estimated by logistic regression, controlling for six different measures of health status (limiting long-standing illness, self-rated health, mental health, somatic disease, musculoskeletal pain and in-patient care) and socio-demographic factors.
Results
Results from the unadjusted analyses indicated increased risks of long-term sick leave (OR 2.00; CI 1.62-2.46) and short-term unemployment (OR 1.76; CI 1.35-2.29) for individuals exposed to more than one short-term sick-leave spell. There were no increased odds of long-term unemployment (OR 0.54; CI 0.28-1.04) or disability pension (OR 0.72; CI 0.42-1.24). After adjusting for the different measures of health status the odds ratio for short-term unemployment was not statistically significant (OR 1.29; CI 0.97-1.74). The odds ratios for the other outcomes slightly increased after adjustment for the used measures of health status.
Conclusions
The results support the assumption that short-term sick leave may have consequences for future sick leave beyond the effect of ill health. The results point to the importance of paying attention to short-term sick leave in order to prevent subsequent sickness absence.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-12-861
PMCID: PMC3508966  PMID: 23050983
Short-term sick leave; Health status; Future sickness absence; Unemployment; Population-based study
2.  Expectations for Recovery Important in the Prognosis of Whiplash Injuries 
PLoS Medicine  2008;5(5):e105.
Background
Individuals' expectations on returning to work after an injury have been shown to predict the duration of time that a person with work-related low back pain will remain on benefits; individuals with lower recovery expectations received benefits for a longer time than those with higher expectations. The role of expectations in recovery from traumatic neck pain, in particular whiplash-associated disorders (WAD), has not been assessed to date to our knowledge. The aim of this study was to investigate if expectations for recovery are a prognostic factor after experiencing a WAD.
Methods and Findings
We used a prospective cohort study composed of insurance claimants in Sweden. The participants were car occupants who filed a neck injury claim (i.e., for WAD) to one of two insurance companies between 15 January 2004 and 12 January 2005 (n = 1,032). Postal questionnaires were completed shortly (average 23 d) after the collision and then again 6 mo later. Expectations for recovery were measured with a numerical rating scale (NRS) at baseline, where 0 corresponds to “unlikely to make a full recovery” and 10 to “very likely to make a full recovery.” The scale was reverse coded and trichotomised into NRS 0, 1–4, and 5–10. The main outcome measure was self-perceived disability at 6 mo postinjury, measured with the Pain Disability Index, and categorised into no/low, moderate, and high disability. Multivariable polytomous logistic regression was used for the analysis. There was a dose response relationship between recovery expectations and disability. After controlling for severity of physical and mental symptoms, individuals who stated that they were less likely to make a full recovery (NRS 5–10), were more likely to have a high disability compared to individuals who stated that they were very likely to make a full recovery (odds ratio [OR] 4.2 [95% confidence interval (CI) 2.1 to 8.5]. For the intermediate category (NRS 1–4), the OR was 2.1 (95% CI 1.2 to 3.2). Associations between expectations and disability were also found among individuals with moderate disability.
Conclusions
Individuals' expectations for recovery are important in prognosis, even after controlling for symptom severity. Interventions designed to increase patients' expectations may be beneficial and should be examined further in controlled studies.
Lena Holm and colleagues show that in people who had a whiplash injury after a car crash there was an association between expectation of disability and actual disability six months later.
Editors' Summary
Background
The disability associated with injury is a major source of distress for patients, and can be costly to the health care system and employers when persons fail to recover quickly and are unable to return to work. Finding ways to help people recover quickly and get back to optimal health is important. Some of the most common injuries causing disability and time off work result from whiplash—the sudden hyperextension or “whipping” of the neck, which can occur from a motor vehicle crash. It has long been recognized that psychological factors (such as the ability to cope, how “in control” one feels about one's life) are as important as physical symptoms in how disabling an injury can be. There is now growing evidence that a person's feelings about their ability to recover from injury plays a part in actual recovery. Studies from Europe and North America have shown with conditions like low back pain and minor head injury that a patient's feelings about the possibility of getting better are related to how well they do. Less is known about how important these psychological factors are in recovery from disorders due to whiplash associated disorders.
Why Was This Study Done?
The authors wanted to find out whether there was a relationship between people's expectations for their recovery from whiplash associated disorders and their actual recovery six months later. So, for example, they wondered if a person with whiplash who felt they were very unlikely to recover from their injury, actually did not recover (and vice versa).
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The authors had access to an unusual set of health information—insurance claims by people who had been involved in car collisions to two insurance companies in Sweden. They identified about 1,000 adult insurance claimants over one year and mailed them a questionnaire that asked for details about the collision as well as information about the claimant: their demographic profile, health history, and the types of pain and symptoms experienced since the crash. The questionnaire also asked the claimant how likely they thought they were to make a full recovery from their injuries.
For those who said they had whiplash associated disorders, the authors followed up with another questionnaire six months later, which asked for information about any disability, pain, or other symptoms that the claimant was still experiencing because of the injury. Of those who had completed the first questionnaire, 82% were followed up.
Only about a quarter of claimants with whiplash associated disorders said they expected to make a full recovery. Perhaps not surprisingly, those with only mild pain, compared to those with intense pain, were more likely to think so. Persons who said they were less likely to make a full recovery were four times more likely to report high levels of disability six months later. Even for persons (or individuals) people with moderate levels of disability six months after injury, their expectations for recovery were similarly linked to how well they did: the lower the expectations for recovery, the higher the disability. These findings were true even after taking into account how severe signs and symptoms the person had, and how well the person was coping psychologically.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The findings indicate that those with the lowest expectations for recovery after their whiplash injury will have the poorest recovery, and those with the highest expectations will have the best recovery. They also suggest that a patient's expectations about getting better are as important as his or her physical symptoms. The authors say that the more we can influence patients to believe they will make a full recovery, the better chance they will have to recover completely. This means that it may be beneficial for healthcare providers to give support and/or education to patients with whiplash associated disorders that increases their positive feelings toward recovery. The authors call for more studies into whether these types of targeted interventions would be of benefit.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0050105.
Information about research on injuries and rehabilitation can be found at the Web sites of organisations devoted to studying the health of workers, such as the Institute for Work and Health in Canada, the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, and the US National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
The Wikipedia entry for medical aspects of whiplash describes the four grades of whiplash disorder, but does not cover the debate about the credibility of whiplash disorder (please note that Wikipedia is an online encyclopedia that anyone can edit)
The Sjukvardsradgivningen Web site provides information about whiplash-related disorders, common signs and symptoms, recovery and prognosis, and treatments (in Swedish)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0050105
PMCID: PMC2375948  PMID: 18479182
3.  A prediction rule for shoulder pain related sick leave: a prospective cohort study 
Background
Shoulder pain is common in primary care, and has an unfavourable outcome in many patients. Information about predictors of shoulder pain related sick leave in workers is scarce and inconsistent. The objective was to develop a clinical prediction rule for calculating the risk of shoulder pain related sick leave for individual workers, during the 6 months following first consultation in general practice.
Methods
A prospective cohort study with 6 months follow-up was conducted among 350 workers with a new episode of shoulder pain. Potential predictors included the results of a physical examination, sociodemographic variables, disease characteristics (duration of symptoms, sick leave in the 2 months prior to consultation, pain intensity, disability, comorbidity), physical activity, physical work load, psychological factors, and the psychosocial work environment. The main outcome measure was sick leave during 6 months following first consultation in general practice.
Results
Response rate to the follow-up questionnaire at 6 months was 85%. During the 6 months after first consultation 30% (89/298) of the workers reported sick leave. 16% (47) reported 10 days sick leave or more. Sick leave during this period was predicted in a multivariable model by a longer duration of sick leave prior to consultation, more shoulder pain, a perceived cause of strain or overuse during regular activities, and co-existing psychological complaints. The discriminative ability of the prediction model was satisfactory with an area under the curve of 0.70 (95% CI 0.64–0.76).
Conclusion
Although 30% of all workers with shoulder pain reported sick leave during follow-up, the duration of sick leave was limited to a few days in most workers. We developed a prediction rule and a score chart that can be used by general practitioners and occupational health care providers to calculate the absolute risk of sick leave in individual workers with shoulder pain, which may help to identify workers who need additional attention. The performance and applicability of our model needs to be tested in other working populations with shoulder pain to enable valid and reliable use of the score chart in everyday practice.
doi:10.1186/1471-2474-7-97
PMCID: PMC1762015  PMID: 17150087
4.  Primary care consultation, hospital admission, sick leave and disability pension owing to neck and low back pain: a 12-year prospective cohort study in a rural population 
Background
Neck and low back pain are common musculoskeletal complaints generating large societal costs in Western populations. In this study we evaluate the magnitude of long-term health outcomes for neck and low back pain, taking possible confounders into account.
Method
A cohort of 2,351 Swedish male farmers and rural non-farmers (40–60 years old) was established in 1989. In the first survey, conducted in 1990–91, 1,782 men participated. A 12-year follow-up survey was made in 2002–03 and 1,405 men participated at both times. After exclusion of 58 individuals reporting a specific back diagnosis in 1990–91, the study cohort encompassed 1,347 men. The health outcomes primary care consultation, hospital admission, sick leave and disability pension were assessed in structured interviews in 2002–03 (survey 2). Symptoms and potential confounders were assessed at survey 1, with the exception of rating of depression and anxiety, which was assessed at survey 2. Multiple logistic regression generating odds ratios (OR) with 95% confidence intervals (95% CI) was performed to adjust the associations between reported symptoms and health outcomes for potential confounders (age, farming, workload, education, demand and control at work, body mass index, smoking, snuff use, alcohol consumption, psychiatric symptoms and specific back diagnoses during follow up).
Results
Of the 836 men reporting current neck and/or low back pain at survey 1, 21% had had at least one primary care consultation for neck or low back problems, 7% had been on sick leave and 4% had disability pension owing to the condition during the 12 year follow up. Current neck and/or low back pain at survey 1 predicted primary care consultations (OR = 4.10, 95% CI 2.24–7.49) and sick leave (OR = 3.22, 95% CI 1.13–9.22) after potential confounders were considered. Lower education and more psychiatric symptoms were independently related to sick leave. Lower education and snuff use independently predicted disability pension.
Conclusion
Few individuals with neck or low back pain were on sick leave or were granted a disability pension owing to neck or low back problems during 12 years of follow up. Symptoms at baseline independently predicted health outcomes. Educational level and symptoms of depression/anxiety were important modifiers.
doi:10.1186/1471-2474-7-66
PMCID: PMC1560131  PMID: 16907991
5.  Recovery after Minor Traffic Injuries: A Randomized Controlled Trial 
PLoS Clinical Trials  2007;2(3):e14.
Objectives:
To assess the efficacy of an acute multidisciplinary group intervention on self-perceived recovery following minor traffic-related musculoskeletal injuries.
Design:
Open, randomized controlled trial.
Setting:
A large inner-city hospital.
Participants:
127 patients (≥15 y) with traffic-related acute minor musculoskeletal injuries and predicted to be at risk for delayed recovery were randomized into an intervention group (n = 65) or a control group (n = 62).
Intervention:
Four 1½-h sessions in open groups with the aim of providing information about injuries in general, calling attention to the importance of self-care and promoting physical activity. In addition, both groups received standard medical care by regular staff.
Outcome measures:
The main outcome measure was self-reported recovery at 12 mo. Secondary outcome measures were ratings of functional health status (SF-36, SMFA), pain and mental distress on visual analog scales, and self-reported duration of sick leave.
Results:
At 12 mo, there was a 21.9 percentage point difference: 52.4% of the patients in the intervention group and 30.5% in the control group reported self-perceived recovery (95% confidence interval for the difference 5%–38%; p = 0.03). There were no statistically significant differences between the groups regarding the secondary outcome measures.
Conclusion:
A simple group intervention may accelerate the self-perceived recovery in selected patients. As we did not find evidence of improvements in the secondary outcome measures, the clinical significance of the treatment benefit remains to be defined.
Editorial Commentary
Background: Worldwide, road traffic accidents contribute substantially to the number of deaths and also to the burden of disability. However, there is a lack of research into road traffic accidents as compared to other causes of ill-health. In particular, minor injuries resulting from traffic accidents are not well-studied even though some people with such injuries might be unwell for a long period of time. Support programs that provide people who have had minor traffic-related injuries with psychological help, physical training, and other types of interventions might help people to recover more quickly. However, there is little evidence that would help to answer this question. In the trial reported here, the researchers aimed to find out whether a support program would increase the chance of recovery in people who had experienced minor traffic-related injuries and who were thought to be less likely to recover. Trial participants were randomized to receive either standard medical care or to receive standard care and also to attend a series of workshops where surgeons, psychiatrists, pain specialists, and other staff gave advice about healing, pain management, exercises, and other aspects of self-care. The primary outcome of the trial was whether participants considered themselves to have recovered, 12 mo after the injury.
What the trial shows: 127 patients were recruited into the study, 62 of whom were assigned to receive standard care only and 65 of whom were assigned to also attend the support workshops. Most participants assigned to the support arm did attend all of the workshop sessions. Patients assigned to attend the support workshops were more likely to report that they had recovered as compared to patients receiving standard care only, and this difference seemed quite substantial. However, there were no statistically significant differences between these two groups in the trial's secondary outcome measures. These secondary measures included scores on rating scales which attempt to measure physical and mental distress and coping ability and the amount of sick leave taken.
Strengths and limitations: Although the trial was fairly small, it did recruit enough participants to detect an effect in the primary outcome measure, recovery at 12 mo. Additionally, a large proportion of the participants randomized to attend support sessions did actually attend the sessions, and follow-up for the primary outcome measure was virtually complete. Limitations of this study include low follow-up of patients for the secondary outcome measures in the trial. This meant that there was low power to detect clinically relevant changes in these outcome measures. Finally, although many patients were eligible for the trial, only a small proportion could be successfully contacted after being discharged from hospital, and it is possible that those people who did agree to participate were more motivated to recover than patients in general who have these injuries.
Contribution to the evidence: Most evidence relating to the benefits of support programs such as these have evaluated their effects in patients who have whiplash injuries rather than general traffic-related injuries. However, the results from this trial are compatible with those of similar trials in patients with whiplash injuries and suggest that support programs such as these may be beneficial in patients at risk of not recovering well from their injuries.
doi:10.1371/journal.pctr.0020014
PMCID: PMC1829405  PMID: 17380190
6.  Back to work: evaluation of a multidisciplinary rehabilitation program with emphasis on mental symptoms; A two-year follow up 
Background
The aim of this investigation was to analyze temporal changes in anxiety, depression, and stress in patients with musculoskeletal pain for a period of up to 2 years after a multidisciplinary rehabilitation program, in relation to sick-listing (registered with The Swedish Social Insurance Agency [Forsakringskassan] for sickness benefit).
Methods
Ten persons with full-time sick leave (absence from work for medical reasons) (group 1) and 49 with part-time or no sick leave (group 2) at the end of the 2-year study period participated. It was shown in a previous study that group 1 had higher pain rating and higher subjective physical disability than group 2, with little or no improvement during and after rehabilitation. In the present study, all participants were evaluated with the Hospital Anxiety and Depression scale and a self-rated stress test.
Results
Participants with full-time sick leave during the study period (group 1) showed improved stress levels but no change in anxiety and depression levels. Anxiety, depression, and stress changed more favorably in participants with part-time or no sick leave than in those with full-time sick leave.
Conclusion
The results of this study indicate that investigation and appropriate treatment of psychological symptoms, including anxiety and depression, are important in multidisciplinary rehabilitation of patients with musculoskeletal disorders.
doi:10.2147/JMDH.S32372
PMCID: PMC3396070  PMID: 22807632
anxiety; depression; musculoskeletal; rehabilitation; sick leave; stress
7.  Effects of self-rated health on sick leave, disability pension, hospital admissions and mortality. A population-based longitudinal study of nearly 15,000 observations among Swedish women and men 
BMC Public Health  2012;12:1103.
Background
Simple global self-ratings of health (SRH) have become increasingly used in national and international public health monitoring, and in recent decades recommended as a standard part of health surveys. Monitoring developments in population health requires identification and use of health measures, valid in relation to targets for population health. The aim of the present study was to investigate associations between SRH and sick leave, disability pension, hospital admissions, and mortality, adjusted for effects of significant covariates, in a large population-based cohort.
Methods
The analyses were based on screening data from eight population-based cohorts in southern and central Sweden, and on official register data regarding sick-leave, disability pension, hospital admissions, and death, with little or no data loss. Sampling was performed 1973–2003. The study population consisted of 11,880 women and men, age 25–99 years, providing 14,470 observations. Information on SRH, socio-demographic data, lifestyle variables and somatic and psychological symptoms were obtained from questionnaires.
Results
There was a significant negative association between SRH and sick leave (Beta −13.2, p<0.0001, and −9.5, p<0.01, in women and men, respectively), disability pension (Hazard ratio 0.77, p<0.0001 and 0.76, p<0.0001, in women and men, respectively), and mortality, adjusted for covariates. SRH was also significantly associated with hospital admissions in men (Hazard ratio 0.87, p<0.0001), but not in women (Hazard ratio 0.96, p0.20). Associations between SRH on the one hand, and sick leave, disability pension, hospital admission, and mortality, on the other, were robust during the follow-up period.
Conclusions
SRH had strong predictive validity in relation to use of social insurance facilities and health care services, and to mortality. Associations were strong and robust during follow-up.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-12-1103
PMCID: PMC3607994  PMID: 23259777
8.  Sick leave among home-care personnel: a longitudinal study of risk factors 
Background
Sick leave due to neck, shoulder and back disorders (NSBD) is higher among health-care workers, especially nursing aides/assistant nurses, compared with employees in other occupations. More information is needed about predictors of sick leave among health care workers. The aim of the study was to assess whether self-reported factors related to health, work and leisure time could predict: 1) future certified sick leave due to any cause, in nursing aides/assistant nurses (Study group I) and 2) future self-reported sick leave due to NSBD in nursing aides/assistant nurses (Study group II).
Methods
Study group I, comprised 443 female nursing aides/assistant nurses, not on sick leave at baseline when a questionnaire was completed. Data on certified sick leave were collected after 18 months. Study group II comprised 274 of the women, who at baseline reported no sick leave during the preceding year due to NSBD and who participated at the 18 month follow-up. Data on sick leave due to NSBD were collected from the questionnaire at 18 months. The associations between future sick leave and factors related to health, work and leisure time were tested by logistic regression analyses.
Results
Health-related factors such as previous low back disorders (OR: 1.89; 95% CI 1.20–2.97) and previous sick leave (OR 6.40; 95%CI 3.97–10.31), were associated with a higher risk of future sick leave due to any cause. Factors related to health, work and leisure time, i.e. previous low back disorders (OR: 4.45; 95% CI 1.27–15.77) previous sick leave, not due to NSBD (OR 3.30; 95%CI 1.33–8.17), high strain work (OR 2.34; 95%CI 1.05–5.23) and high perceived physical exertion in domestic work (OR 2.56; 95%CI 1.12–5.86) were associated with a higher risk of future sick leave due to NSBD. In the final analyses, previous low back disorders and previous sick leave remained significant in both study groups.
Conclusion
The results suggest a focus on previous low back disorders and previous sick leave for the design of early prevention programmes aiming at reducing future sick leave due to any cause, as well as due to NSBD, among nursing aides/assistant nurses. A multifactorial approach may be of importance in the early prevention of sick leave due to NSBD.
doi:10.1186/1471-2474-5-38
PMCID: PMC539270  PMID: 15533255
9.  Associations between partial sickness benefit and disability pensions: initial findings of a Finnish nationwide register study 
BMC Public Health  2010;10:361.
Background
Timely return to work after longterm sickness absence and the increased use of flexible work arrangements together with partial health-related benefits are tools intended to increase participation in work life. Although partial sickness benefit and partial disability pension are used in many countries, prospective studies on their use are largely lacking. Partial sickness benefit was introduced in Finland in 2007. This register study aimed to investigate the use of health-related benefits by subjects with prolonged sickness absence, initially on either partial or full sick leave.
Methods
Representative population data (13 375 men and 16 052 women either on partial or full sick leave in 2007) were drawn from national registers and followed over an average of 18 months. The registers provided information on the study outcomes: diagnoses and days of payment for compensated sick leaves, and the occurrence of disability pension. Survival analysis and multinomial regression were carried out using sociodemographic variables and prior sickness absence as covariates.
Results
Approximately 60% of subjects on partial sick leave and 30% of those on full sick leave had at least one recurrent sick leave over the follow up. A larger proportion of those on partial sick leave (16%) compared to those on full sick leave (1%) had their first recurrent sick leave during the first month of follow up. The adjusted risks of the first recurrent sick leave were 1.8 and 1.7 for men and women, respectively, when subjects on partial sick leave were compared with those on full sick leave. There was no increased risk when those with their first recurrent sick leave in the first month were excluded from the analyses. The risks of a full disability pension were smaller and risks of a partial disability pension approximately two-fold among men and women initially on partial sick leave, compared to subjects on full sick leave.
Conclusions
This is the first follow up study of the newly adopted partial sickness benefit in Finland. The results show that compared to full sick leave, partial sick leave - when not followed by lasting return to work - is more typically followed by partial disability pension and less frequently by full disability pension. It is anticipated that the use of partial benefits in connection with part-time participation in work life will have favourable effects on future disability pension rates in Finland.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-10-361
PMCID: PMC2912806  PMID: 20573207
10.  Promoting work ability in a structured national rehabilitation program in patients with musculoskeletal disorders: outcomes and predictors in a prospective cohort study 
Background
Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are a major reason for impaired work productivity and sick leave. In 2009, a national rehabilitation program was introduced in Sweden to promote work ability, and patients with MSDs were offered multimodal rehabilitation. The aim of this study was to analyse the effect of this program on health related quality of life, function, sick leave and work ability.
Methods
We conducted a prospective, observational cohort study including 406 patients with MSDs attending multimodal rehabilitation. Changes over time and differences between groups were analysed concerning function, health related quality of life, work ability and sick leave. Regression analyses were used to study the outcome variables health related quality of life (measured with EQ-5D), and sick leave.
Results
Functional ability and health related quality of life improved after rehabilitation. Patients with no sick leave/disability pension the year before rehabilitation, improved health related quality of life more than patients with sick leave/disability pension the year before rehabilitation (p = 0.044). During a period of −/+ four months from rehabilitation start, patients with EQ-5D ≥ 0.5 at rehabilitation start, reduced their net sick leave days with 0.5 days and patients with EQ-5D <0.5 at rehabilitation start, increased net sick leave days with 1.5 days (p = 0.019). Factors negatively associated with sick leave at follow-up were earlier episodes of sick leave/disability pension, problems with exercise tolerance functions and mobility after rehabilitation. Higher age was associated with not being on sick leave at follow-up and reaching an EQ-5D ≥ 0.5 at follow-up. Severe pain after rehabilitation, problems with exercise tolerance functions, born outside of Sweden and full-time sick leave/disability pension the year before rehabilitation were all associated with an EQ-5D level < 0.5 at follow-up.
Conclusions
Patients with MSDs participating in a national work promoting rehabilitation program significantly improved their health related quality of life and functional ability, especially those with no sick leave. This shows that vocational rehabilitation programs in a primary health care setting are effective. The findings of this study can also be valuable for more appropriate patient selection for rehabilitation programs for MSDs.
doi:10.1186/1471-2474-14-57
PMCID: PMC3626929  PMID: 23384339
Sick leave; Musculoskeletal pain; Multimodal rehabilitation; Health related quality of life; Function
11.  Workers Who Stay at Work Despite Chronic Nonspecific Musculoskeletal Pain: Do They Differ from Workers with Sick Leave? 
Purpose Most workers with chronic nonspecific musculoskeletal pain (CMP) do not take sick leave, nor consult a health care professional or search vocational rehabilitation. Yet, the knowledge of many researchers, clinicians and policy makers is largely based on people with CMP who discontinue work. The aim of this study was to explore characteristics of workers who stay at work despite CMP, and to compare these with sick-listed workers with CMP following vocational rehabilitation. Methods The clinical characteristics of workers who stay at work despite CMP (n = 119) and sick-listed workers who follow vocational rehabilitation (n = 122) were described and the differences between these groups were assessed. Logistic regression analysis was used to assess differences between the groups and to determine which variables predicted group status. Results Workers who stayed at work despite CMP reported significantly lower levels of fear avoidance (OR = 0.94), pain catastrophizing (OR = 0.93), perceived workload (OR = 0.93), and higher pain acceptance (OR = 1.11), life control (OR = 1.62) and pain self-efficacy (OR = 1.09) compared to sick-listed workers following rehabilitation, even after controlling for confounders. The groups did not differ on physical activity level, active coping and work satisfaction. Group status was predicted best by pain intensity, duration of pain, pain acceptance, perceived workload, mental health, and psychological distress (area under the receiver operating characteristic curve = 0.91, 95% CI = 0.87–0.95). Conclusions A wide range of characteristics of workers who stay at work despite CMP were explored. Relevant differences from sick-listed workers with CMP were observed in all domains of the bio-psycho-social model. Six main predictors were identified that best discriminate between both groups.
doi:10.1007/s10926-012-9360-6
PMCID: PMC3484275  PMID: 22454300
Staying at work; Vocational rehabilitation; Musculoskeletal disorders; Chronic pain; Work participation
12.  Prevalence of and risk factors for different measures of low back pain among female nursing aides in Taiwanese nursing homes 
Background
Although low back pain (LBP) among nursing staff, especially in nursing aides (NAs), has been a major health problem around the world, there is limited information on its prevalence in Taiwan. In addition, various measurements have been used to determine LBP; understanding the risk factors for each measurement of LBP is essential for prevention. This study aimed to assess the prevalence of and risk factors for different measures of LBP among NAs in Taiwan.
Methods
A cross-sectional study was conducted among 244 female NAs from 31 nursing homes in central Taiwan. A self-administered questionnaire, including the Nordic questionnaire and the Karasek's job content questionnaire, was used to collect data regarding five different measures of LBP and about demographic, physical and psychosocial factors. Also, on-site observation at the workplace was conducted to measure the frequency of five high risk patient-handling tasks.
Results
Based on the subjects' reports on the previous twelve months, the prevalence rates for pain lasting for at least one day, seeking of medical care, intense pain, sick leave, and chronic pain were 66.0%, 43.9%, 38.1%, 10.7%, and 8.6%, respectively. While multiple logistic regression analyses indicated that the risk factors varied with different measures of LBP, at least one high risk patient-handling task and one psychosocial factor were observed to be associated each LBP related measure. Three risk factors, including manual transfer of patients between bed/wheelchair and bath cart, perceived physical exertion, and psychological demands, were consistently associated with different measures of LBP. Besides, age was found to be associated with an increased risk of only chronic pain.
Conclusion
The prevalence of LBP among NAs in Taiwan is high and should be actively addressed. Certain manual patient-transfer tasks and psychological demands seemed to play more important roles in severe LBP (such as care seeking, intense pain, and sick leave) than in minor LBP (pain lasting for at least one day). Because different LBP related measures might be involved with different etiological risk factors, any LBP reduction interventions that aim to improve ergonomic and psychosocial work environments for NAs should take this information into consideration.
doi:10.1186/1471-2474-8-52
PMCID: PMC1920507  PMID: 17593305
13.  Effectiveness of early part-time sick leave in musculoskeletal disorders 
Background
The importance of staying active instead of bed rest has been acknowledged in the management of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). This emphasizes the potential benefits of adjusting work to fit the employee's remaining work ability. Despite part-time sick leave being an official option in many countries, its effectiveness has not been studied yet. We have designed a randomized controlled study to assess the health effects of early part-time sick leave compared to conventional full-day sick leave. Our hypothesis is that if work time is temporarily reduced and work load adjusted at the early stages of disability, employees with MSDs will have less disability days and faster return to regular work duties than employees on a conventional sick leave.
Methods/Design
The study population will consist of 600 employees, who seek medical advice from an occupational physician due to musculoskeletal pain. The inclusion requires that they have not been on a sick leave for longer than 14 days prior to the visit. Based on the physician's judgement, the severity of the symptoms must indicate a need for conventional sick leave, but the employee is considered to be able to work part-time without any additional risk. Half of the employees are randomly allocated to part-time sick leave group and their work time is reduced by 40–60%, whereas in the control group work load is totally eliminated with conventional sick leave. The main outcomes are the number of days from the initial visit to return to regular work activities, and the total number of sick leave days during 12 and 24 months of follow-up. The costs and benefits as well as the feasibility of early part-time sick leave will also be evaluated.
Conclusion
This is the first randomised trial to our knowledge on the effectiveness of early part-time sick leave compared to conventional full-time sick leave in the management of MSDs. The data collection continues until 2011, but preliminary results on the feasibility of part-time sick leave will be available already in 2008. The increased knowledge will assist in better decision making process regarding the management of disability related to MSDs.
Trial Registration
International Standard Randomised Controlled Trial Number Register, register number ISRCTN30911719
doi:10.1186/1471-2474-9-23
PMCID: PMC2267790  PMID: 18294405
14.  Disability Transitions and Health Expectancies among Adults 45 Years and Older in Malawi: A Cohort-Based Model 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(5):e1001435.
Collin Payne and colleagues investigated development of disabilities and years expected to live with disabilities in participants 45 years and older participating in the Malawi Longitudinal Survey of Families and Health.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
Falling fertility and increasing life expectancy contribute to a growing elderly population in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA); by 2060, persons aged 45 y and older are projected to be 25% of SSA's population, up from 10% in 2010. Aging in SSA is associated with unique challenges because of poverty and inadequate social supports. However, despite its importance for understanding the consequences of population aging, the evidence about the prevalence of disabilities and functional limitations due to poor physical health among older adults in SSA continues to be very limited.
Methods and Findings
Participants came from 2006, 2008, and 2010 waves of the Malawi Longitudinal Survey of Families and Health, a study of the rural population in Malawi. We investigate how poor physical health results in functional limitations that limit the day-to-day activities of individuals in domains relevant to this subsistence-agriculture context. These disabilities were parameterized based on questions from the SF-12 questionnaire about limitations in daily living activities. We estimated age-specific patterns of functional limitations and the transitions over time between different disability states using a discrete-time hazard model. The estimated transition rates were then used to calculate the first (to our knowledge) microdata-based health expectancies calculated for SSA. The risks of experiencing functional limitations due to poor physical health are high in this population, and the onset of disabilities happens early in life. Our analyses show that 45-y-old women can expect to spend 58% (95% CI, 55%–64%) of their remaining 28 y of life (95% CI, 25.7–33.5) with functional limitations; 45-y-old men can expect to live 41% (95% CI, 35%–46%) of their remaining 25.4 y (95% CI, 23.3–28.8) with such limitations. Disabilities related to functional limitations are shown to have a substantial negative effect on individuals' labor activities, and are negatively related to subjective well-being.
Conclusions
Individuals in this population experience a lengthy struggle with disabling conditions in adulthood, with high probabilities of remitting and relapsing between states of functional limitation. Given the strong association of disabilities with work efforts and subjective well-being, this research suggests that current national health policies and international donor-funded health programs in SSA inadequately target the physical health of mature and older adults.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
The population of the world is getting older. In almost every country, the over-60 age group is growing faster than any other age group. In 2000, globally, there were about 605 million people aged 60 years or more; by 2050, 2 billion people will be in this age group. Much of this increase in the elderly population will be in low-income countries. In sub-Saharan Africa, for example, 10% of the population is currently aged 45 years or more, but by 2060, a quarter of the population will be so-called mature adults. In all countries, population aging is the result of women having fewer children (falling fertility) and people living longer (increasing life expectancy). Thus, population aging is a demographic transition, a change in birth and death rates. In low- and middle-income countries, population aging is occurring in parallel with an “epidemiological transition,” a shift from communicable (infectious) diseases to non-communicable diseases (for example, heart disease) as the primary causes of illness and death.
Why Was This Study Done?
Both the demographic and the epidemiological transition have public health implications for low-income countries. Good health is important for the independence and economic productivity of older people. Productive older people can help younger populations financially and physically, and help compensate for the limitations experienced by younger populations infected with HIV. Also, low-income countries lack social safety nets, so disabled older adults can be a burden on younger populations. Thus, the health of older individuals is important to the well-being of people of all ages. As populations age, low-income countries will need to invest in health care for mature and elderly adults and in disease prevention programs to prevent or delay the onset of non-communicable diseases, which can limit normal daily activities by causing disabilities. Before providing these services, national policy makers need to know the proportion of their population with disabilities, the functional limitations caused by poor physical health, and the health expectancies (the number of years a person can expect to be in good health) of older people in their country. In this cohort modeling study, the researchers estimate health expectancies and transition rates between different levels of disability among mature adults in Malawi, one of the world's poorest countries, using data collected by the Malawi Longitudinal Survey of Families and Health (MLSFH) on economic, social, and health conditions in a rural population. Because Malawi has shorter life expectancies and earlier onset of disability than wealthier countries, the authors considered individuals aged 45 and older as mature adults at risk for disability.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers categorized the participants in the 2006, 2008, and 2010 waves of the MLSFH into three levels of functional limitation (healthy, moderately limited, and severely limited) based on answers to questions in the SF-12 health survey questionnaire that ask about disabilities that limit daily activities that rural Malawians perform. The researchers estimated age–gender patterns of functional limitations and transition rates between different disability states using a discrete-time hazard model, and health expectancies by running a microsimulation to model the aging of synthetic cohorts with various starting ages but the same gender and functional limitation distributions as the study population. These analyses show that the chance of becoming physically disabled rises sharply with age, with 45-year-old women in rural Malawi expected to spend 58% of their estimated remaining 28 years with functional limitations, and 45-year-old men expected to live 41% of their remaining 25.4 years with functional limitations. Also, on average, a 45-year-old woman will spend 2.7 years with moderate functional limitation and 0.6 years with severe functional limitation before she reaches 55; for men the corresponding values are 1.6 and 0.4 years. Around 50% of moderately and 60%–80% of severely limited individuals stated that pain interfered quite a bit or extremely with their normal work during the past four weeks, suggesting that pain treatment may help reduce disability.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that mature adults in rural Malawi will have some degree of disability during much of their remaining lifetime. The risks of experiencing functional limitations are higher and the onset of persistent disabilities happens earlier in Malawi than in more developed contexts—the proportions of remaining life spent with severe limitations at age 45 in Malawi are comparable to those of 80-year-olds in the US. The accuracy of these findings is likely to be affected by assumptions made during modeling and by the quality of the data fed into the models. Nevertheless, these findings suggest that functional limitations, which have a negative effect on the labor activity of individuals, will become more prominent in Malawi (and probably other sub-Saharan countries) as the age composition of populations shifts over the coming years. Older populations in sub-Saharan Africa are not targeted well by health policies and programs at present. Consequently, these findings suggest that policy makers will need to ensure that additional financial resources are provided to improve health-care provision for aging individuals and to lessen the high rates of functional limitation and associated disabilities.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001435.
This study is further discussed in a PLoS Medicine Perspective by Andreas Stuck, et al.
The World Health Organization provides information on many aspects of aging (in several languages); the WHO Study on Global Ageing and Adult Health (SAGE) is compiling longitudinal information on the health and well-being of adult populations and the aging process
The United Nations Population Fund and HelpAge International publication Ageing in the Twenty-First Century is available
HelpAge International is an international nongovernmental organization that helps older people claim their rights, challenge discrimination, and overcome poverty, so that they can lead dignified, secure, and healthy lives
More information on the Malawi Longitudinal Study of Families and Health is available
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001435
PMCID: PMC3646719  PMID: 23667343
15.  Consequences of spinal pain: Do age and gender matter? A Danish cross-sectional population-based study of 34,902 individuals 20-71 years of age 
Background
While low back pain (LBP) and neck pain (NP) have been extensively studied, knowledge on mid back pain (MBP) is still lacking. Furthermore, pain from these three spinal areas is typically studied or reported separately and in depth understanding of pain from the entire spine and its consequences is still needed.
Objectives
To describe self-reported consequences of pain in the three spinal regions in relation to age and gender.
Methods
This was a cross-sectional postal survey, comprising 34,902 twin individuals, representative of the general Danish adult population. The variables of interest in relation to consequences of spinal pain were: Care-seeking, reduced physical activity, sick-leave, change in work situation, and disability pension.
Results
Almost two-thirds of individuals with spinal pain did not report any consequence. Generally, consequences due to LBP were more frequently reported than those due to NP or MBP. Regardless of area of complaint, care seeking and reduced physical activities were the most commonly reported consequences, followed by sick-leave, change of work, and disability pension. There was a small mid-life peak for care-seeking and a slow general increase in reduced activities with increasing age. Increasing age was not associated with a higher reporting of sick-leave but the duration of the sick-leave increased somewhat with age. Disability pension due to spinal pain was reported exceedingly rare before the age of 50. Typically, women slightly more often than men reported some kind of consequences due to spinal pain.
Conclusions
Most people reporting spinal pain manage without any serious consequences. Low back pain more commonly results in some kind of consequence when compared to NP and MBP. Few age-related trends in consequences were seen with a slight predominance of women reporting consequences.
doi:10.1186/1471-2474-12-39
PMCID: PMC3041727  PMID: 21299908
16.  Early coordinated multidisciplinary intervention to prevent sickness absence and labour market exclusion in patients with low back pain: study protocol of a randomized controlled trial 
Background
Musculoskeletal disorders account for one third of the long-term absenteeism in Denmark and the number of individuals sick listed for more than four weeks is increasing. Compared to other diagnoses, patients with musculoskeletal diseases, including low back pain, are less likely to return to work after a period of sick leave. It seems that a multidisciplinary intervention, including cooperation between the health sector, the social sector and in the work place, has a positive effect on days off work due to musculoskeletal disorders and particularly low back pain. It is a challenge to coordinate this type of intervention, and the implementation of a return-to-work (RTW)-coordinator is suggested as an effective strategy in this process. The purpose of this paper is to describe the study protocol and present a new type of intervention, where the physiotherapist both has the role as RTW-coordinator and treating the patient.
Methods/design
A randomized controlled trial (RCT) is currently on-going. The RCT includes 770 patients with low back pain of minimum four weeks who are referred to an outpatient back centre. The study population consists of patients, who are sick-listed or at risk of sick-leave due to LBP. The control group is treated with usual care in a team of a physiotherapist, a chiropractor, a rheumatologist and a social worker employed at the centre. The Intervention group is treated with usual care and in addition intervention of a psychologist, an occupational physician, an ergonomist, a case manager from the municipal sickness benefit office, who has the authority in the actual case concerning sickness benefit payment and contact to the patients employer/work place. The treating physiotherapist is the RTW-coordinator. Outcome will be reported at the end of treatment as well as 6 and 12 months follow up. The primary outcome is number of days off work. Secondary outcomes are disability, pain, and quality of life. The study will follow the recommendations in CONSORT-statement in designing and reporting RCTs.
Discussion
This large RCT is testing the effectiveness of a preventive intervention targeting patients on short term sick leave or at risk being sick listed because of low back pain. We have developed a novel multidisciplinary team structure using the treating physiotherapist as the return to work coordinator, and having the case manager from the municipal sickness benefit office participating in team meetings. The study has the potential to contribute to the knowledge about how to target the challenges in the treatment of LBP. The aim is to prevent sickness absence and labour market exclusion - both on the individual level and economic costs at community level. Short term results will be available in 2014.
This study is approved by the Danish Regional Ethics Committee (J.nr: H-C-2008-112) and is registered at.
Trial registration
ClinicalTrials.gov: NCT01690234
doi:10.1186/1471-2474-14-93
PMCID: PMC3606127  PMID: 23496897
Low back pain (LBP); Return to work (RTW); Sickness absence; Rehabilitation; Prevention; Multidisciplinary intervention; Coordination; Denmark
17.  Sick-leave decisions for patients with severe subjective health complaints presenting in primary care: A cross-sectional study in Norway, Sweden, and Denmark 
Abstract
Objectives
The primary objective of this study was to explore whether general practitioners (GPs) in Norway, Sweden, and Denmark make similar or different decisions regarding sick leave for patients with severe subjective health complaints (SHC). The secondary objective was to investigate if patient diagnoses, the reasons attributed for patient complaints, and GP demographics could explain variations in sick leave decisions.
Design
A cross-sectional study.
Method
Video vignettes of GP consultations with nine different patients.
Subjects
126 GPs in Norway, Sweden, and Denmark.
Setting
Primary care in Norway, Sweden, and Denmark.
Main outcome measure
Sick leave decisions made by GPs.
Results
“Psychological” diagnoses in Sweden were related to lower odds ratio (OR) of granting sick leave than in Norway (OR = 0.07; 95% CI = 0.01–0.83) Assessments of patient health, the risk of deterioration, and their ability to work predicted sick leave decisions. Specialists in general medicine grant significantly fewer sick leaves than non-specialists.
Conclusion
Sick-leave decisions made by GPs in the three countries were relatively similar. However, Swedish GPs were more reluctant to grant sick leave for patients with “psychological” diagnoses. Assessments regarding health-related factors were more important than diagnoses in sick-leave decisions. Specialist training may be of importance for sick-leave decisions.
doi:10.3109/02813432.2013.844412
PMCID: PMC3860299  PMID: 24164371
Diagnosis; family practice; general practice; medically unexplained symptoms; Norway; primary health care; sick leave; somatoform disorder
18.  Untying chronic pain: prevalence and societal burden of chronic pain stages in the general population - a cross-sectional survey 
BMC Public Health  2014;14:352.
Background
Chronic pain is a major public health problem. The impact of stages of chronic pain adjusted for disease load on societal burden has not been assessed in population surveys.
Methods
A cross-sectional survey with 4360 people aged ≥ 14 years representative of the German population was conducted. Measures obtained included demographic variables, presence of chronic pain (based on the definition of the International Association for the Study of Pain), chronic pain stages (by chronic pain grade questionnaire), disease load (by self-reported comorbidity questionnaire) and societal burden (by self-reported number of doctor visits, nights spent in hospital and days of sick leave/disability in the previous 12 months, and by current unemployment). Associations between chronic pain stages with societal burden, adjusted for demographic variables and disease load, were tested by Poisson and logistic regression analyses.
Results
2508 responses were received. 19.4% (95% CI 16.8% to 22.0%) of participants met the criteria of chronic non-disabling non-malignant pain. 7.4% (95% CI 5.0% to 9.9%) met criteria for chronic disabling non-malignant pain. Compared with no chronic pain, the rate ratio (RR) of days with sick leave/disability was 1.6 for non-disabling pain and 6.4 for disabling pain. After adjusting for age and disease load, the RRs increased to 1.8 and 6.8. The RR of doctor visits was 2.5 for non-disabling pain and 4.5 for disabling pain if compared with no chronic pain. After adjusting for age and disease load, the RR fell to 1.7 and 2.6. The RR of days in hospital was 2.7 for non-disabling pain and 11.7 for disabling pain if compared with no chronic pain. After adjusting for age and disease load, the RR fell to 1.5 and 4.0. Unemployment was predicted by lower educational level (Odds Ratio OR 3.27 [95% CI 1.70-6.29]), disabling pain (OR 3.30 [95% CI 1.76-6.21]) and disease load (OR 1.70 [95% CI 1.41-2.05]).
Conclusion
Chronic pain stages, but also disease load and societal inequalities contributed to societal burden. Pain measurements in epidemiology research of chronic pain should include chronic pain grades and disease load.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-14-352
PMCID: PMC4022433  PMID: 24725286
Chronic pain; Disease load; Social inequality; General population; Cross-sectional survey
19.  Sick leave patterns as predictors of disability pension or long-term sick leave: a 6.75-year follow-up study in municipal eldercare workers 
BMJ Open  2014;4(2):e003941.
Objectives
The aim was to study whether a workplace-registered frequent short-term sick leave spell pattern was an early indicator of future disability pension or future long-term sick leave among municipal eldercare workers.
Setting
The municipal healthcare sector in the city of Aarhus, which is the second largest city in Denmark.
Participants
All elder care employees who worked the entire year of 2004 in the municipality of Aarhus, Denmark (N=2774). The employees’ sick leave days during 2004 were categorised into: 0–2 and 3–17 short (1–7 days) spells, 2–13 mixed short and long (8+ days) spells and long spells only. Student workers (n=180), employees who were absent due to maternal/paternal leave (n=536) and employees who did not work the entire year of 2004 (n=1218) were not included.
Primary outcome
Disability pension and long-term sick leave (≥8 weeks) were subsequently identified in a National register. The cumulative incidence proportion as a function of follow-up weeks was estimated using the Kaplan-Meier curve. The relative cumulative incidence (RR) of experiencing events within 352 weeks was analysed in a generalised linear regression model using the pseudo values method adjusted for age, occupation, unfavourable work factors and sick leave length.
Results
A frequent short-term and a mixed sick leave pattern showed RRs of being granted a disability pension of 2.08 (95% CI 1.00 to 4.35) and 2.61 (95% CI 1.33 to 5.12) compared with 0–2 short spells. The risk of long-term sick leave was significantly increased for all sick leave patterns compared with 0–2 short spells. Adding sick leave length to the models attenuated all RRs and they became non-significant.
Conclusions
Sick leave length was a better indicator of future workability than spell frequency. Preventive actions should target employees engaged in homecare. The more sick leave days the greater the preventive potential seems, irrespective of spell frequency.
doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2013-003941
PMCID: PMC3918999  PMID: 24508850
20.  Sick but yet at work. An empirical study of sickness presenteeism 
STUDY OBJECTIVE—The study is an empirical investigation of sickness presenteeism in relation to occupation, irreplaceability, ill health, sickness absenteeism, personal income, and slimmed down organisation.
DESIGN—Cross sectional design.
SETTING—Swedish workforce.
PARTICIPANTS—The study group comprised a stratified subsample of 3801 employed persons working at the time of the survey, interviewed by telephone in conjunction with Statistics Sweden's labour market surveys of August and September 1997. The response rate was 87 per cent.
MAIN RESULTS—A third of the persons in the total material reported that they had gone to work two or more times during the preceding year despite the feeling that, in the light of their perceived state of health, they should have taken sick leave. The highest presenteeism is largely to be found in the care and welfare and education sectors (nursing and midwifery professionals, registered nurses, nursing home aides, compulsory school teachers and preschool/primary educationalists. All these groups work in sectors that have faced personnel cutbacks during the 1990s). The risk ratio (odds ratio (OR)) for sickness presenteeism in the group that has to re-do work remaining after a period of absence through sickness is 2.29 (95% CI 1.79, 2.93). High proportions of persons with upper back/neck pain and fatigue/slightly depressed are among those with high presenteeism (p< 0.001). Occupational groups with high sickness presenteeism show high sickness absenteeism (ρ = 0.38; p<.01) and the hypothesis on level of pay and sickness presenteeism is also supported (ρ = −0.22; p<0.01).
CONCLUSIONS—Members of occupational groups whose everyday tasks are to provide care or welfare services, or teach or instruct, have a substantially increased risk of being at work when sick. The link between difficulties in replacement or finding a stand in and sickness presenteeism is confirmed by study results. The categories with high sickness presenteeism experience symptoms more often than those without presenteeism. The most common combination is low monthly income, high sickness absenteeism and high sickness presenteeism.


Keywords: sickness presenteeism; sickness absenteeism; ill health
doi:10.1136/jech.54.7.502
PMCID: PMC1731716  PMID: 10846192
21.  Work and Health, a Blind Spot in Curative Healthcare? A Pilot Study 
Introduction Most workers with musculoskeletal disorders on sick leave often consult with regular health care before entering a specific work rehabilitation program. However, it remains unclear to what extent regular healthcare contributes to the timely return to work (RTW). Moreover, several studies have indicated that it might postpone RTW. There is a need to establish the influence of regular healthcare on RTW as outcome; “Does visiting a regular healthcare provider influence the duration of sickness absence and recurrent sick leave due to musculoskeletal disorders?”. Methods A cohort of workers on sick leave for 2–6 weeks due to a-specific musculoskeletal disorders was followed for 12 months. The main outcomes for the present analysis were: duration of sickness absence till 100% return to work and recurrent sick leave after initial RTW. Cox regression analyses were conducted with visiting a general health practitioner, physical therapist, or medical specialist during the sick leave period as independent variables. Each regression model was adjusted for variables known to influence health care utilization like age, sex, diagnostic group, pain intensity, functional disability, general health perception, severity of complaints, job control, and physical load at work. Results Patients visiting a medical specialist reported higher pain intensity and more functional limitations and also had a worse health perception at start of the sick leave period compared with those not visiting a specialist. Visiting a medical specialist delayed return to work significantly (HR = 2.10; 95%CI 1.43–3.07). After approximately 8 weeks on sick leave workers visiting a physical therapist returned to work faster than other workers. A recurrent episode of sick leave during the follow up quick was initiated by higher pain intensity and more functional limitations at the moment of fully return to work. Visiting a primary healthcare provider during the sickness absence period did not influence the occurrence of a new sick leave period. Conclusion Despite the adjustment for severity of the musculoskeletal disorder, visiting a medical specialist was associated with a delayed full return to work. More attention to the factor ‘labor’ in the regular healthcare is warranted, especially for those patients experiencing substantial functional limitations due to musculoskeletal disorders.
doi:10.1007/s10926-010-9271-3
PMCID: PMC3173611  PMID: 21080214
Return to work; Work disability; Health care services; Musculoskeletal disorders
22.  Pain intensity and severe pain in young immigrant patients with long-standing back pain 
European Spine Journal  2007;17(1):89-96.
The aim of this study was to explore if self-rated pain intensity and severe pain differed significantly between immigrants from different regions, and if other socio-economic, or clinical, characteristics could predict severe pain. A total of 129 men and 217 women at a primary health centre in Stockholm, Sweden, 27–45 years, on long-term sick leave, were recruited in consecutive order and grouped into a Turkish (n = 122), Southern European (n = 52), Middle East (n = 69) and one Mixed (n = 173) group of immigrants. All were employed in service jobs. Somatic status, depression and level of psychosocial stressors, including pain anxiety, were established by standardized procedures. All reported long-standing disabling back pain. Patients rated intensity of pain “right now” on a 0–100 mm visual analogue scale (VAS) as a last part of the consultation with two doctors. Severe pain was defined as VAS 75–100. Median values (md) with inter-quartile ranges (IQR) were calculated for interval and ordinal data. Non-parametric statistics were used to calculate significant differences between groups. Crude and age-standardized odds ratios (OR) with 95% confidence intervals (95% CI) as rating severe pain were calculated by binary and forward conditional logistic regression. Men and women were analyzed separately. Women had more tender points, (P < 0.001), and reported pain anxiety more often (P < 0.01). Frequency of depression did not differ between the immigrant groups. The VAS-values varied, but not significantly, between the immigrant groups of men and women. Men had lower VAS values than women (md 50, IQR 36–69 vs. md 72, IQR 51–85), (P < 0.001). Women had a three-fold risk to rate severe pain (OR 2.9, 95% CI 1.8–4.7). By sex, no immigrant group had significantly elevated OR to rate severe pain. Being 40–45 year old doubled the OR as rating severe pain. Men with depression, or little education, had high risks as rating severe pain (age-standardized ORs 4.1; 95% CI 1.7–10.0 and 2.7; 95% CI 1.1–6.8, respectively), and so had depressed women (age-standardized OR 1.9; 95% CI 1.1–3.4). Women with pain anxiety had a doubled, not statistically significant, elevated risk (age-standardized OR 2.0, 95% CI 0.95–4.3). The groups did not differ significantly in pain intensity or severe pain. Severe pain was predicted by depressed mood and probably linked to gender, age and sick roles.
doi:10.1007/s00586-007-0520-x
PMCID: PMC2365526  PMID: 17952473
Pain severity; Primary care; Psychosocial stress; Immigrants; Gender; Depression
23.  The influence of lifestyle and gender on sickness absence in Brazilian workers 
BMC Public Health  2014;14:317.
Background
Despite an increasing body of knowledge concerning gender and lifestyle factors as determinants of sickness absence in well-developed countries, the relationship between these variables has not been elucidated in emerging economic power countries, where the burden of non-communicable diseases is particularly high. This study aimed to analyze the relationships among lifestyle-related factors and sick leave and to examine whether gender differences in sickness absence can be explained by differences in socio-demographic, work and lifestyle-related factors among Brazilian workers.
Methods
In this longitudinal study with a one year follow-up among 2.150 employees of a Brazilian airline company, sick leave was the primary outcome of interest. Independent variables collected by interview at enrolment in the study were gender, age, educational level, type of work, stress, and lifestyle-related factors (body mass index, physical activity and smoking). In addition, the risk for coronary heart disease was determined based on measurement of blood pressure, total cholesterol and glucose levels. The total number of days on sick leave during 12 months follow-up was available from the company register. Logistic regression analysis was used to determine the influence of socio-demographic, type of work and lifestyle-related factors on sick leave.
Results
Younger employees, those with lower educational level, those who worked as air crew members and those with higher levels of stress were more likely to have sick leave. Body mass index and level of physical activity were not associated with sick leave. After adjustment by socio-demographic variables, increased odds for 10 or more days of sick leave were found in smokers (OR = 1.51, CI = 1.05-2.17), and ex-smokers (OR = 1.45, CI = 1.01-2.10). Women were more likely to have 10 or more days of sick leave. Gender differences were reduced mainly when adjusted for type of work (15%) and educational level (7%).
Conclusions
The higher occurrence of sick leave among women than among men was partly explained by type of work and educational level. Our results suggest that type of work, a stressful life, and smoking are important targets for health promotion in this study population.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-14-317
PMCID: PMC3983852  PMID: 24708760
Sick leave; Gender; Health behavior
24.  Risk factors for sickness absence due to low back pain and prognostic factors for return to work in a cohort of shipyard workers 
European Spine Journal  2008;17(9):1185-1192.
The purpose of this study was to determine risk factors for the occurrence of sickness absence due to low back pain (LBP) and to evaluate prognostic factors for return to work. A longitudinal study with 1-year follow-up was conducted among 853 shipyard workers. The cohort was drawn around January 2004 among employees in the shipyard industry. Baseline information was obtained by questionnaire on physical and psychosocial work load, need for recovery, perceived general health, musculoskeletal complaints, sickness absence, and health care use during the past year. During the 1-year follow-up for each subject medical certifications were retrieved for information on the frequency and duration of spells of sickness absence and associated diagnoses. Cox regression analyses were conducted on occurrence and on duration of sickness absence with hazard ratios (HR) with 95% confidence interval (95% CI) as measure of association. During the 1-year follow-up period, 14% of the population was on sick leave at least once with LBP while recurrence reached 41%. The main risk factors for sickness absence were previous absence due to a health problem other than LBP (HR 3.07; 95%CI 1.66–5.68) or previous sickness absence due to LBP (HR 6.52; 95%CI 3.16–13.46). Care seeking for LBP and lower educational level also hold significant influences (HR 2.41; 95%CI 1.45–4.01 and HR 2.46; 95%CI 1.19–5.07, respectively). Living with others, night shift and supervising duties were associated with less absenteeism due to LBP. Workers with a history of herniated disc had a significantly decreased rate of returning to work, whereas those who suffered from hand-wrist complaints and LBP returned to work faster. Prior sick leave due to LBP partly captured the effects of work-related physical and psychosocial factors on occurrence of sick leave. Our study showed that individual and job characteristics (living alone, night shift, lower education, sick leave, or care seeking during the last 12 months) influenced the decision to take sick leave due to LBP. An increased awareness of those frequently on sick leave and additional management after return to work may have a beneficial effect on the sickness absence pattern.
doi:10.1007/s00586-008-0711-0
PMCID: PMC2527417  PMID: 18649089
Low back pain; Sick leave; Prognosis; Recurrence; Return to work
25.  Exploring integrative medicine for back and neck pain - a pragmatic randomised clinical pilot trial 
Background
A model for integrative medicine (IM) adapted to Swedish primary care was previously developed. The aim of this study was to explore the feasibility of a pragmatic randomised clinical trial to investigate the effectiveness of the IM model versus conventional primary care in the management of patients with non-specific back/neck pain. Specific objectives included the exploration of recruitment and retention rates, patient and care characteristics, clinical differences and effect sizes between groups, selected outcome measures and power calculations to inform the basis of a full-scale trial.
Methods
Eighty patients with back/neck pain of at least two weeks duration were randomised to the two types of care. Outcome measures were standardised health related quality of life (the eight domains of SF-36) complemented by a set of exploratory "IM tailored" outcomes targeting self-rated disability, stress and well-being (0-10 scales); days in pain (0-14); and the use of analgesics and health care over the last two weeks (yes/no). Data on clinical management were derived from medical records. Outcome changes from baseline to follow-up after 16 weeks were used to explore the differences between the groups.
Results
Seventy-five percent (80/107) of screened patients in general practice were eligible and feasible to enrol into the trial. Eighty-two percent (36/44) of the integrative and 75% (27/36) of the conventional care group completed follow-up after 16 weeks. Most patients had back/neck pain of at least three months duration. Conventional care typically comprised advice and prescription of analgesics, occasionally complemented with sick leave or a written referral to physiotherapy. IM care generally integrated seven treatment sessions from two different types of complementary therapies with conventional care over ten weeks. The study was underpowered to detect any statistically significant differences between the groups. One SF-36 domain showed a clinically relevant difference between groups that was also supported by a small distribution based effect size, i.e. vitality (-7.3 points, Cohen's d -0.34) which was in favour of IM. There was a clinical trend between groups showing that IM contributed to less use of prescription and non-prescription analgesics (-11.7 and - 9.7 percent units respectively) compared to conventional care. Exploring clinically relevant differences and the SF-36 as the basis for a main outcome measure showed that the sample sizes needed per arm to adequately power a full-scale trial depended on the target domain, i.e. ranging from 60 (vitality) to 339 (role emotion).
Conclusion
This pilot study investigated the implementation of IM in the primary care management of non-specific back and neck pain. Recruiting patients and implementing IM in routine clinical practice was feasible. The results warrant further exploration into different perspectives and relevant combinations of outcome measures including the use of health resources, drugs and cost-effectiveness to help understand the relevance of IM in primary care. Future research should prioritise larger scale studies considering variability, pain duration and small to moderate treatment effects.
Trial registration
Clinical trials NCT00565942
doi:10.1186/1472-6882-9-33
PMCID: PMC2749805  PMID: 19735542

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