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1.  Work disability benefits due to musculoskeletal disorders among Brazilian private sector workers 
BMJ Open  2011;1(1):e000003.
To evaluate the prevalence and characteristics of disability benefits due to musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) granted to Brazilian private sector workers.
This was a population-based epidemiological study of MSD-related benefits among registered private sector workers (n=32 959 329). The prevalence (benefits/10 000 workers/year) of work disability benefits was calculated by gender, age, state, Human Development Index (HDI), economic activity, MSD type and work-relatedness.
The prevalence of MSD-related benefits in Brazil among registered private sector workers in 2008 was 93.6/10 000 workers. The prevalence increased with age, and was higher for women (112.2) than for men (88.1), although the former had shorter benefit duration. The gender-adjusted prevalence by state varied from 16.6 to 90.3 for non-work-related, and from 7.8 to 59.6 for work-related benefits. The Brazilian states with a high–very high HDI had the highest prevalence. The top four most common types of MSD-related benefits were due to back pain, intervertebral disc disorders, sinovitis/tenosynovitis and shoulder disorders.
MSD is a frequent cause of work disability in Brazil. There were differences in prevalence among economic activities and between states grouped by HDI. This study demonstrates that further evaluation of the contributing factors associated with MSD-related disability benefits is required. Factors that should be considered include production processes, political organisation, socioeconomic and educational characteristics, the compensation and recording systems, and employee–employer power relationships. These factors may play an important role in the prevalence of MSD-related disability benefits, especially in countries with large socioeconomic iniquities such as Brazil.
Article summary
Article focus
Musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) are a major cause of disability worldwide.
The prevalence and distribution of MSD among Brazilian workers are not well known.
This article evaluates the prevalence and characteristics of disability benefits due to MSD granted to Brazilian private sector workers.
Key messages
The prevalence of MSD-related benefits among registered Brazilian private sector workers in 2008 was 93.6/10 000 workers, with the top four most common benefits being due to back pain, intervertebral disc disorders, sinovitis/tenosynovitis and shoulder disorders.
This study demonstrates that further evaluation of the contributing factors associated with MSD-related disability benefits is required and should assess the production processes, political organisation, socioeconomic and educational characteristics, the compensation and recording systems, and employee–employer power relationships.
These factors may play an important role in the prevalence of MSD-related disability benefits, especially in countries with large socioeconomic iniquities such as Brazil.
Strengths and limitations of this study
All employed workers with a registered job in the private sector were analysed (32 959 329 workers). Prevalence was adjusted by gender, age and category of benefit (work-related or non-work-related). This initial descriptive study provides some baseline data on the magnitude of the problem. The data may be used for future comparisons and to evaluate the effectiveness of prevention programs. The strength of this paper is that it supplies information which could be useful in the implementation of an occupational health policy to reduce MSD. One of the limitations is that it only includes data from registered workers although there are many non-registered workers in Brazil. Another limitation is that this study depends on the quality of the data recorded by the National Insurer (NI) of the Brazilian Ministry of Social Insurance.
PMCID: PMC3191405  PMID: 22021719
2.  Effectiveness of community- and workplace-based interventions to manage musculoskeletal-related sickness absence and job loss – a systematic review 
Rheumatology (Oxford, England)  2011;51(2):230-242.
This systematic review assesses the effectiveness of interventions in community and workplace settings to reduce sickness absence and job loss in workers with musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). Relevant studies (randomised controlled trials (RCTs) and cohort studies published since 1990) were identified by screening citations in 35 earlier systematic reviews and from searches of Medline and Embase to April 2010. Among 42 studies (54 reports) including 34 RCTs, 27 assessed return to work, 21 duration of sickness absence, and five job loss. Interventions included exercise therapy, behavioural change techniques, workplace adaptations and provision of additional services. Studies were typically small (median sample size 107 (inter-quartile range (IQR) 77 to 148) and limited in quality. Most interventions were reported as beneficial: the median relative risk (RR) for return to work was 1.21 (IQR 1.00 – 1.60) and that for avoiding MSD-related job loss, 1.25 (IQR 1.06-1.71); the median reduction in sickness absence was 1.11 (IQR 0.32 to 3.20) days/month. However, effects were smaller in the larger and better quality studies, suggesting publication bias. No intervention was clearly superior to others, although effort-intensive interventions were less effective than simple ones. No cost-benefit analyses established statistically significant net economic benefits. Given that benefits are small and of doubtful cost-effectiveness, employers’ practice should be guided by their value judgements about the uncertainties. Expensive interventions should be implemented only with rigorous cost-benefit evaluation planned from the outset. Future research should focus on the cost-effectiveness of simple low cost interventions, and further explore impacts on job retention.
PMCID: PMC3276837  PMID: 21415023
Occupational Disease; Epidemiology; Rehabilitation; Systematic review; Psychological techniques; Physiotherapy
3.  Low back pain and widespread pain predict sickness absence among industrial workers 
The prevalence of musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) in the aluminium industry is high, and there is a considerable work-related fraction. More knowledge about the predictors of sickness absence from MSD in this industry will be valuable in determining strategies for prevention. The aim of this study was to analyse the relative impact of body parts, psychosocial and individual factors as predictors for short- and long-term sickness absence from MSD among industrial workers.
A follow-up study was conducted among all the workers at eight aluminium plants in Norway. A questionnaire was completed by 5654 workers at baseline in 1998. A total of 3320 of these participated in the follow-up study in 2000. Cox regression analysis was applied to investigate the relative impact of MSD in various parts of the body and of psychosocial and individual factors reported in 1998 on short-term and long-term sickness absence from MSD reported in 2000.
MSD accounted for 45% of all working days lost the year prior to follow-up in 2000. Blue-collar workers had significantly higher risk than white-collar workers for both short- and long-term sickness absence from MSD (long-term sickness absence: RR = 3.04, 95% CI 2.08–4.45). Widespread and low back pain in 1998 significantly predicted both short- and long-term sickness absence in 2000. In addition, shoulder pain predicted long-term sickness absence. Low social support predicted short-term sickness absence (RR = 1.28, 95% CI 1.11–1.49).
Reducing sickness absence from MSD among industrial workers requires focusing on the working conditions of blue-collar workers and risk factors for low back pain and widespread pain. Increasing social support in the work environment may have effects in reducing short-term sickness absence from MSD.
PMCID: PMC200978  PMID: 12956891
sickness absence; musculoskeletal disorders; low back pain; widespread pain; blue-collar workers; social support
4.  Prevalence and risk factors for foot and ankle musculoskeletal disorders experienced by nurses 
Nurses are at high risk of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). Although the prevalence of MSDs of the lower back, upper limbs, neck and shoulders have been reported previously in nursing, few studies have evaluated MSDs of the foot and ankle. This study evaluated the prevalence of foot and ankle MSDs in nurses and their relation to individual and workplace risk factors.
A self-administered survey incorporating the Nordic Musculoskeletal Questionnaire (NMQ) was distributed, over a nine-week period, to all eligible nurses (n = 416) working in a paediatric hospital in Brisbane, Australia. The prevalence of MSDs for each of the NMQ body regions was determined. Bivariate and multivariable logistic regression analyses were conducted to examine the relationships between activity-limiting foot/ankle MSDs and risk factors related to the individual (age, body mass index, number of existing foot conditions, smoking history, general physical health [SF36 Physical Component Scale], footwear features) or the workplace (level of nursing position, work location, average hours worked, hours worked in previous week, time since last break from work).
A 73% response rate was achieved with 304 nurses completing surveys, of whom 276 were females (91%). Mean age of the nurses was 37 years (±10), younger than the state average of 43 years. Foot/ankle MSDs were the most prevalent conditions experienced by nurses during the preceding seven days (43.8%, 95% CI 38.2-49.4%), the second most prevalent MSDs to impair physical activity (16.7%, 95% CI 13.0-21.3%), and the third most prevalent MSD, after lower-back and neck problems, during the preceding 12 months (55.3%, 95% CI 49.6-60.7%). Of the nurse and work characteristics investigated, obesity, poor general physical health, existing foot conditions and working in the intensive care unit emerged as statistically significant (p < 0.05) independent risk factors for activity-limiting foot/ankle MSDs.
Foot/ankle MSDs are common in paediatric hospital nurses and resulted in physical activity limitations in one out of every six nurses. We recommend targeted education programs regarding the prevention, self-management and treatment strategies for foot/ankle MSDs. Further research is needed into the impact of work location and extended shift durations on foot/ankle MSDs.
PMCID: PMC4061517  PMID: 24902582
5.  Promoting work ability in a structured national rehabilitation program in patients with musculoskeletal disorders: outcomes and predictors in a prospective cohort study 
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.
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.
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.
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.
PMCID: PMC3626929  PMID: 23384339
Sick leave; Musculoskeletal pain; Multimodal rehabilitation; Health related quality of life; Function
6.  Sickness Absence in the Private Sector of Greece: Comparing Shipyard Industry and National Insurance Data 
Approximately 3% of employees are absent from work due to illness daily in Europe, while in some countries sickness absence exceeds 20 days per year. Based on a limited body of reliable studies, Greek employees in the private sector seem to be absent far less frequently (<5 days/year) compared to most of the industrialized world. The aim of this study was to estimate the levels of sickness absence in the private sector in Greece, using shipyard and national insurance data. Detailed data on absenteeism of employees in a large shipyard company during the period 1999–2006 were utilized. National data on compensated days due to sickness absence concerning all employees (around 2 million) insured by the Social Insurance Institute (IKA, the largest insurance scheme in Greece) were retrieved from the Institute’s annual statistical reports for the period 1987–2006. Sick-leave days per employee and sick-leave rate (%) were calculated, among other indicators. In the shipyard cohort, the employment time loss due to sick leave was 1%. The mean number of sick-leave days per employee in shipyards ranged between 4.6 and 8.7 and sick-leave rate (sickness absenteeism rate) varied among 2% and 3.7%. The corresponding indicators for IKA were estimated between 5 and 6.3 sick-leave days per insured employee (median 5.8), and 2.14–2.72% (median 2.49%), respectively. Short sick-leave spells (<4 days) may account at least for the 25% of the total number of sick-leave days, currently not recorded in national statistics. The level of sickness absence in the private sector in Greece was found to be higher than the suggested by previous reports and international comparative studies, but still remains one of the lowest in the industrialized world. In the 20-years national data, the results also showed a 7-year wave in sickness absence indexes (a decrease during the period 1991–1997 and an increase in 1998–2004) combined with a small yet significant decline as a general trend. These observations deserve detailed monitoring and could only partly be attributed to the compensation and unemployment rates in Greece so other possible reasons should be explored.
PMCID: PMC3366606  PMID: 22690189
sickness absence; sick leave; occupational health; social insurance; employment; compensation; shipyard; industry; Greece
7.  Effectiveness of early part-time sick leave in musculoskeletal disorders 
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.
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.
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
PMCID: PMC2267790  PMID: 18294405
8.  Musculoskeletal disorders in shipyard industry: prevalence, health care use, and absenteeism 
It is unclear whether the well-known risk factors for the occurrence of musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) also play an important role in the determining consequences of MSD in terms of sickness absence and health care use.
A cross-sectional study was conducted among 853 shipyard employees. Data were collected by questionnaire on physical and psychosocial workload, need for recovery, perceived general health, occurrence of musculoskeletal complaints, and health care use during the past year. Retrospective data on absenteeism were also available from the company register.
In total, 37%, 22%, and 15% of employees reported complaints of low back, shoulder/neck, and hand/wrist during the past 12 months, respectively. Among all employees with at least one MSD, 27% visited a physician at least once and 20% took at least one period of sick leave. Various individual and work-related factors were associated with the occurrence of MSD. Health care use and absenteeism were strongest influenced by chronicity of musculoskeletal complaints and comorbidity with other musculoskeletal complaints and, to a lesser extent, by work-related factors.
In programmes aimed at preventing the unfavourable consequences of MSD in terms of sickness absence and health care use it is important to identify the (individual) factors that determine the development of chronicity of complaints. These factors may differ from the well-know risk factors for the occurrence of MSD that are targeted in primary prevention.
PMCID: PMC1676002  PMID: 17125504
9.  A systematic review of musculoskeletal disorders among school teachers 
Musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) represent one of the most common and most expensive occupational health problems in both developed and developing countries. School teachers represent an occupational group among which there appears to be a high prevalence of MSD. Given that causes of MSD have been described as multi-factorial and prevalence rates vary between body sites and location of study, the objective of this systematic review was to investigate the prevalence and risk factors for MSD among teaching staff.
The study involved an extensive search of MEDLINE and EMBASE databases in 2011. All studies which reported on the prevalence and/or risk factors for MSD in the teaching profession were initially selected for inclusion. Reference lists of articles identified in the original search were then examined for additional publications. Of the 80 articles initially located, a final group of 33 met the inclusion criteria and were examined in detail.
This review suggests that the prevalence of self-reported MSD among school teachers ranges between 39% and 95%. The most prevalent body sites appear to be the back, neck and upper limbs. Nursery school teachers appear to be more likely to report suffering from low back pain. Factors such as gender, age, length of employment and awkward posture have been associated with higher MSD prevalence rates.
Overall, this study suggests that school teachers are at a high risk of MSD. Further research, preferably longitudinal, is required to more thoroughly investigate the issue of MSD among teachers, with a greater emphasis on the possible wider use of ergonomic principles. This would represent a major step forward in the prevention of MSD among teachers, especially if easy to implement control measures could be recommended.
PMCID: PMC3250950  PMID: 22087739
10.  Partial sick leave associated with disability pension: propensity score approach in a register-based cohort study 
BMJ Open  2012;2(6):e001752.
To support sustainability of the welfare society enhanced work retention is needed among those with impaired work ability. Partial health-related benefits have been introduced for this target. The aim was to estimate the effects of partial sick leave on transition to disability pension applying propensity score methods.
Register-based cohort study.
Sample from the national sickness insurance registers representative of the Finnish working population (full-time workers) with long-term sickness absence due to musculoskeletal disorders, mental disorders, traumas or tumours.
All recipients of partial or full sickness benefit whose sick leave period had ended between 1 May and 31 December 2007 were included. The sample was limited to four most prevalent diagnostic groups—mental and musculoskeletal disorders, traumas and tumours. The total sample consisted of 1047 subjects on partial sick leave (treatment group) and 28 380 subjects on full sick leave (control group). A subsample (1017 and 25 249 subjects, respectively) was formed to improve the comparability of the two groups.
Outcome measures
A three-category measure and a binary measure for the occurrence of disability pension on the last day of 2008 were computed.
Partial sickness benefit reduced the risk (change in absolute risk) of full disability pension by 6% and increased the risk of partial disability pension by 8% compared with full sick leave. The effects did not differ markedly for the two main diagnostic groups of musculoskeletal and mental disorders. In men, the use of full disability pension was reduced by 10% with a 5% increase in the use of partial disability pension, while in women the effects were close to those of the total sample.
Our findings suggest that combining work with partial sick leave may provide one means to increase work retention at population level. The use of partial sick leave could be encouraged among men.
PMCID: PMC3533026  PMID: 23144260
Epidemiology; Public Health; Population Registers
11.  Risk of musculoskeletal disorder among Taiwanese nurses cohort: a nationwide population-based study 
Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) represent the leading causes of occupational injuries among nursing staff. This population-based study was designed to assess the incidence and age-specific incidence of MSDs among a Taiwanese nurse cohort compared with non-nurses.
Data from the Taiwan National Health Insurance Research Database were used to identify MSDs in the study population. A total of 3914 nurses with a diagnosis of MSD were included, together with 11,744 non-nurses as a comparison group. The comparison subjects were randomly selected at a ratio of 3:1 relative to the nurse population and were matched by gender and age. The incidence of MSDs was calculated for the study group, with nurse-to-reference risk ratios presented as odds ratios with 95% confidence intervals (CIs). During the period 2004–2010, 3004 MSDs occurred among the nurses (76.24%) and 7779 (65.79%) in the non-nurses. The annual incidence of MSDs for the nurses increased from 28.35% in 2006 to 33.65% in 2010. The nurse-to-reference risk ratio was 1.27 (95% CI 1.19–1.35) in 2004 and 1.46 (1.37–1.55) in 2010. Herniation of intervertebral disc, lumbago, rotator cuff syndrome, medial epicondylitis, trigger finger and carpal tunnel syndrome were the most common problems.
Nurses are at higher risk of MSDs and the trend is increasing. Incorrect work-related posture/movement, psychological issues and the rolling shift system may be the major causes of MSDs among nurses in Taiwan.
PMCID: PMC3637823  PMID: 23617330
Musculoskeletal disorders; Nurses; Low back pain; Epidemiology; Incidence
12.  Magnitude of impact and healthcare use for musculoskeletal disorders in the paediaric: a population-based study 
Although musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) are among the most prevalent chronic conditions, minimal attention has been paid to the paediatric population. The aim of this study is to describe the annual prevalence of healthcare contacts for MSD by children and youth age 0-19 years, including type of MSD, care delivery setting and the specialty of the physician consulted.
Analysis of data on all children with healthcare contacts for MSD in Ontario, Canada using data from universal health insurance databases on ambulatory physician and emergency department (ED) visits, same-day outpatient surgery, and in-patient admissions for the fiscal year 2006/07. The proportion of children and youth seeing different physician specialties was calculated for each physician and condition grouping. Census data for the 2006 Ontario population was used to calculate person visit rates.
122.1 per 1,000 children and youth made visits for MSD. The majority visited for injury and related conditions (63.2 per 1,000), followed by unspecified MSD complaints (33.0 per 1,000), arthritis and related conditions (27.7 per 1,000), bone and spinal conditions (14.2 per 1,000), and congenital anomalies (3 per 1,000). Injury was the most common reason for ED visits and in-patient admissions, and arthritis and related conditions for day-surgery. The majority of children presented to primary care physicians (74.4%), surgeons (22.3%), and paediatricians (10.1%). Paediatricians were more likely to see younger children and those with congenital anomalies or arthritis and related conditions.
One in eight children and youth make physician visits for MSD in a year, suggesting that the prevalence of MSD in children may have been previously underestimated. Although most children may have self-limiting conditions, it is unknown to what extent these may deter involvement in physical activity, or be indicators of serious and potentially life-threatening conditions. Given deficiencies in medical education, particularly of primary care physicians and paediatricians, it is important that training programs devote an appropriate amount of time to paediatric MSD.
PMCID: PMC3493363  PMID: 22691633
13.  Workplace as an origin of health inequalities 
OBJECTIVE: To investigate the effect of the workplace on the socioeconomic gradient of sickness absence. DESIGN: Comparison of the relation between socioeconomic status and employee sickness absence in three different towns. SETTINGS: The towns of Raisio, Valkeakoski, and Nokia in Finland. They are equal in size and regional social deprivation indices, located in the neighbourhood of a larger city, and produce the same services to the inhabitants. SUBJECTS: All permanent local government employees from Raisio (n = 887), Valkeakoski (n = 972), and Nokia (n = 934) on the employer's registers during 1991 to 1993. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Rates of short (1-3 days) and long (> 3 days) spells of sickness absence, irrespective of cause, and separately for infection, musculoskeletal disorder, and trauma. RESULTS: In blue collar male and female workers, compared with the same sex higher grade white collar workers, the age adjusted numbers of long sick leaves were 4.9 (95% CI 4.2, 5.8) and 2.8 (2.6, 3.1) times higher, respectively. The risk varied significantly between the towns, in men in relation to long sick leaves irrespective of cause and resulting from musculoskeletal disorders, and in women in relation to long leaves resulting from infection. The numbers of long sick leaves were 3.9 (95% CI 2.8, 5.4) times higher in blue collar male workers than in higher grade white collar male workers in Raisio, 4.9 (95% CI 3.8, 6.3) times higher in Valkeakoski, and 5.8 (95% CI 4.5, 7.5) times higher in Nokia. Sickness absence of blue collar employees differed most between the towns. The rates of long sick leaves in blue collar men were 1.46 times greater (95% CI 1.25, 1.72) in Valkeakoski and 1.85 times greater (95% CI 1.58, 2.16) in Nokia than in Raisio. In men, no significant differences were found between the towns as regards the numbers of long sick leaves of higher grade white collar male workers. The socioeconomic gradients differed more between the towns in men who had worked for four years or more in the same employment than in men who had worked for shorter periods. No consistent health gradients of socioeconomic status were evident for short sick leaves among either sex. CONCLUSIONS: In men and to a lesser extent in women, the workplace is significantly associated with health inequalities as reflected by medically certified sickness absence and the corresponding socioeconomic gradients of health.
PMCID: PMC1756934  PMID: 10492732
14.  The return-to-work process of individuals sick-listed because of whiplash-associated disorder: a three-year follow-up study in a Danish cohort of long-term sickness absentees 
BMC Public Health  2014;14:113.
The chronic course of whiplash-associated disorder (WAD) has implications for both the individual and society. It has been shown that up to 50% of patients have not yet returned to work six months after a whiplash injury. We wanted to study the return-to-work (RTW) process in individuals sick-listed for more than eight weeks in six Danish municipalities. RTW in individuals sick-listed due to WAD was compared to that in those sick-listed for other musculoskeletal disorders (MSD).
Information about long-term sick-listed individuals in six Danish municipalities was retrieved from an existing database. Data on public transfer income were collected and the RTW process was followed on a weekly basis. Multivariate logistic regression analysis of RTW was done four times during the first three years after the start of sick-listing.
One hundred and four individuals were sick-listed due to WAD and 3,204 individuals were sick-listed due to other MSDs. After 6 months, the RTW was significantly lower in the WAD group. OR for RTW in the WAD group was 0.29 (0.18–0.49) compared to the MSD group. The RTW process for both groups stabilised after two years of follow-up; 44% returned to work in the WAD group as compared to 58% in the MSD group.
Sick-listed individuals with whiplash-associated disorder are less likely to return to work than individuals who are sick-listed because of other musculoskeletal disorders. In both groups, RTW stabilised after two years of follow-up.
PMCID: PMC3922863  PMID: 24495801
Return to work; Whiplash; Whiplash-associated disorder; Musculoskeletal disorders; Long-term sickness absence; Prognosis; Public transfer income
15.  Gender differences in disability after sickness absence with musculoskeletal disorders: five-year prospective study of 37,942 women and 26,307 men 
Gender differences in the prevalence and occupational consequences of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are consistently found in epidemiological studies. The study investigated whether gender differences also exist with respect to chronicity, measured as the rate of transition from sickness absence into permanent disability pension (DP).
Prospective national cohort study in Norway including all cases with a spell of sickness absence > eight weeks during 1997 certified with a MSD, 37,942 women and 26,307 men. The cohort was followed-up for five years with chronicity measured as granting of DP as the endpoint. The effect of gender was estimated in the full sample adjusting for sociodemographic factors and diagnostic distribution. Gender specific analyses were performed with the same explanatory variables. Finally, the gender difference was estimated for nine diagnostic subgroups.
The crude rate of DP was 22% for women and 18% for men. After adjusting for all sociodemographic variables, a slightly higher female risk of DP remained. However, additional adjustment for diagnostic distribution removed the gender difference completely. Having children and working full time decreased the DP risk for both genders, whereas low socioeconomic status increased the risk similarly. There was a different age effect as more women obtained a DP below the age of 50. Increased female risk of chronicity remained for myalgia/fibromyalgia, back disorders and "other/unspecified" after relevant adjustments, whereas men with neck disorders were at higher risk of chronicity.
Women with MSDs had a moderately increased risk of chronicity compared to men, when including MSDs with a traumatic background. Possible explanations are lower income, a higher proportion belonging to diagnostic subgroups with poor prognosis, and a younger age of chronicity among women. When all sociodemographic and diagnostic variables were adjusted for, no gender difference remained, except for some diagnostic subgroups.
PMCID: PMC3046931  PMID: 21299856
16.  The French Musculoskeletal Disorders Surveillance Program: Pays de la Loire network 
An epidemiological surveillance system for work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) was implemented in 2002 in France’s Pays de la Loire region to assess the incidence and prevalence of MSDs in the general and working populations, identify levels of exposure to occupational risk factors and investigate the proportion of cases attributable to work exposure.
The program combines (1) surveillance of sentinel health events in the general population (carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) was the sentinel event for upper limb MSDs), (2) assessment of the prevalence of the main upper limb MSDs and their risk factors in the workplace based on a network of occupational physicians and (3) registration of the notification of work-related diseases (WRDs).
1168 incident cases of CTS were included over a 3 year period. The estimated incidence of CTS was 1.00 per 1000 person-years in those aged 20–59 years (0.60 in men and 1.40 in women). The incidence rate was higher in employed than unemployed persons in the year of diagnosis (0.6 per 1000 vs 0.3 in men and 1.7 vs 0.8 in women). The occupational physician network noted high prevalence rates: 11% of men and 15% of women had at least one of the six main upper limb clinically-diagnosed MSDs. The WRD survey showed that MSDs represented 65% of notified WRDs.
The Pays de la Loire program plays a significant role in informing the authorities and the public about the state of current MSDs. It is planned to extend it to a routine national surveillance program.
PMCID: PMC2693672  PMID: 19269944
17.  Associations between partial sickness benefit and disability pensions: initial findings of a Finnish nationwide register study 
BMC Public Health  2010;10:361.
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.
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.
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.
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.
PMCID: PMC2912806  PMID: 20573207
18.  Limitations of Activities in Patients with Musculoskeletal Disorders 
Musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) are the major cause of morbidity throughout the world, having a substantial influence on quality of life (QOL). We studied QOL ascertained by limitations of activities of daily living, impact on family and social relationships, and sleep disturbances among patients with MSD.
Ascertain QOL in MSD.
Materials and Methods:
A cross-sectional study among 2633 randomly selected subjects. The study was carried out in the field practice area of D Y Patil Medical College, Pune, India. In the first phase of the study, patients of MSD were identified by house-to-house surveys, by face-to-face interviews, and clinical examination carried out by trained interns in random samples of selected households. Subsequently, QOL in patients with MSD was elicited by measuring limitations of activities of daily living, impact on family and social relationships and sleep disturbances by structured instrument, using Likert/Dichotomous Scale. Statistical software EPI Info 2002 was used for estimation of sample size, data entry, and analysis. Data were summarized using proportions and percentages. Association of gender and rural–urban background with prevalence of musculoskeletal disorders was explored with odds ratio (OR) with 95% confidence intervals.
A total of 2633 subjects were examined. Out of these, 190 (7.2%) suffered from various types of MSD, with higher prevalence in females than males (OR=1.43, 95% CI=1.05 to 1.95). Prevalence was also higher in the rural population compared with urban (OR=2.02, 95% CI=1.45 to 2.83). However, the rural–urban difference may be due to the confounding effect of age, as prevalence was higher in the elderly (48.78%) and the mean age of the rural population was significantly higher than the urban population. Different degrees of limitations among patients of MSD in carrying out specific activities were: Dressing 9.5%, washing hair 11.6%, rising from bed 50%, feeding themselves 6%, walking 39%, taking bath 10%, toilet 37%, rising from chair 47%, rising from floor 55%, boarding bus 30%, and sleep disturbances 47%. These limitations also had impact on their family and social relationships.
Patients of musculoskeletal disorders face appreciable limitations in their activities of daily living, which adversely impact their QOL.
PMCID: PMC3507122  PMID: 23209982
Activities; Disorders; Limitations; Musculoskeletal
19.  Work-life conflict and musculoskeletal disorders: a cross-sectional study of an unexplored association 
The health consequences of work-family or rather work-life conflict (WLC) have been studied by numerous researchers. The work-related causes of musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) are also well explored. And stress (at work) has been found to be a consequence of WLC as well as a cause of MSD. But very little is known about a potential association between WLC and MSD and the possible mediating role of stress in this relationship.
Survey data collected in 2007 among the workforces of four large companies in Switzerland were used for this study. The study population covered 6091 employees. As the exposure variable and hypothesized risk factor for MSD, WLC was measured by using a 10-item scale based on an established 18-item scale on work-family conflict. The outcome variables used as indicators of MSD were (low) back pain and neck/shoulder pain. Stress as the assumed intervening variable was assessed by a validated single-item measure of general stress perception. Correlation coefficients (r), standardized regression coefficients (β) and multiple adjusted odds ratios (OR) were calculated as measures of association.
WLC was found to be quite strongly associated with MSD (β = .21). This association turned out to be substantially confounded by physical strain at work, workload and job autonomy and was considerably reduced but far from being completely eliminated after adjusting for general stress as another identified risk factor of MSD and a proven strong correlate of WLC (r = .44). A significant and relevant association still remained (β = .10) after having controlled for all considered covariates. This association could be fully attributed to only one direction of WLC, namely the work-to-life conflict. In subsequent analyses, a clear gradient between this WLC direction and both types of MSD was found, and proved to be consistent for both men and women. Employees who were most exposed to such work-to-life conflict were also most at risk and showed a fivefold higher prevalence rate (19%-42%) and also an up to sixfold increased relative risk (OR = 3.8-6.3) of suffering greatly from these types of MSD compared with the least exposed reference group showing very low WLC in this direction. Including stress in the regression models again reduced the strength of the association significantly (OR = 1.9-4.1), giving an indication for a possible indirect effect of WLC on MSD mediated by stress.
Future research and workplace interventions for the prevention of MSD need to consider WLC as an important stressor, and the MSD risk factor identified in this study.
PMCID: PMC3073966  PMID: 21410950
20.  Use and usefulness of guidelines for sickness certification: results from a national survey of all general practitioners in Sweden 
BMJ Open  2011;1(2):e000303.
Diagnoses-specific sickness certification guidelines were recently introduced in Sweden. The aim of this study was to investigate to which extent general practitioners (GPs) used these guidelines and how useful they found them, 1 year after introduction.
A cross-sectional questionnaire study. A comprehensive questionnaire about sickness certification practices in 2008 was sent to all physicians living and working in Sweden (n=36 898, response rate 60.6%). In all, 19.7% (n=4394) of the responders worked as GPs.
Primary healthcare in all Sweden.
The participating GPs who had consultations concerning sickness certification at least a few times a year (n=4278, 97%).
Main outcome measures
Descriptive statistics and prevalence ratios for the 11 questionnaire items about the use and usefulness of the sickness certification guidelines.
A majority (76.2%) of the GPs reported that they used the guidelines. In addition, 65.4% and 43.5% of those GPs reported that the guidelines had facilitated their contacts with patients and social insurance officers, respectively. The guidelines also helped nearly one-third (31.5%) of the GPs to develop their competence and improve the quality of their management of sickness certification consultations (33.5%). About half experienced some problems when using the guidelines and 43.7% wanted better competence in using them. A larger proportion of non-specialists and of GPs with fewer sickness certification consultations had benefitted from the guidelines.
The national sickness certification guidelines implemented in Sweden were widely used by GPs already a year after introduction. Also, the GPs consider the guidelines useful in several respects, for example, in patient contacts and for competence development.
Article summary
Article focus
Sweden recently introduced national sickness certification guidelines. We investigated:
To what extent did the general practitioners use them 1 year later?
How useful did the general practitioners find them?
Key messages
Already after 1 year, most general practitioners used the guidelines and benefited extensively from them
Two-thirds of the general practitioners reported that the guidelines had facilitated their patient contacts and one-third that it facilitated their contacts with social insurance, other healthcare staff and employers
One-third stated that the guidelines had been helpful in competence development and improved the quality of their management of sickness certification cases
Strengths and limitations of this study
Strengths were the large study group and that all general practitioners in Sweden were included. Also, internationally this is the, so far, without comparison largest study of general practitioner's sickness certification practices. However, the non-response rate of 39% was a limitation, and we have no way of knowing if the non-responders differed with regard to use of the guidelines. However, only 11 of the 163 items in the questionnaire concerned the guidelines, why there is no reason to believe that no response was related to use of the guidelines.
PMCID: PMC3244659  PMID: 22189350
21.  Reducing sick leave by minimal postal intervention: a randomised, controlled intervention study 
The lack of efficient medical interventions for combating increasing sickness absence rates has lead to the introduction of alternative measures initiated by the Norwegian National Insurance Service or at workplaces.
To determine whether minimal postal intervention had any effect on the length of sick leave.
Randomised, controlled trial with a one year follow up in Northern Norway in 1997 and 1998; 990 consecutive newly sick‐listed persons with musculoskeletal or mental disorders were studied. Within the intervention group, 495 eligible sick‐listed persons received a general information letter and a questionnaire as their sick leave passed 14 days. Possible intervention effects were analysed by survival analysis of the probability of returning to work within one year, and logistic regressions with benefits at one year as the dependent variable.
The overall reduction of 8.3 (95% CI −22.5 to 6.0) calendar days in mean length of sick leaves in the intervention group compared to controls, was not statistically significant. However, intervention significantly reduced length of sick leaves in subgroups with mental disorders, and with rheumatic disorders and arthritis, and overall for sick leaves lasting 12 weeks or more. Young people with low back pain showed an adverse effect to intervention. The overall relative risk of receiving benefits due to sickness after one year in the intervention group was 0.69 (95% CI 0.51 to 0.93) compared to controls.
The results should encourage employers, insurance institutions, and authorities to initiate challenges as questions on the length of sick leave and possible modified work measures, during the first few weeks of sick leave, for at least some groups of sick‐listed persons.
PMCID: PMC2078047  PMID: 16644897
musculoskeletal; randomised controlled trial; sickness absence; sick leave; sick‐listed persons
22.  Validation of sick leave measures: self-reported sick leave and sickness benefit data from a Danish national register compared to multiple workplace-registered sick leave spells in a Danish municipality 
BMC Public Health  2012;12:661.
Previous validation studies of sick leave measures have focused on self-reports. Register-based sick leave data are considered to be valid; however methodological problems may be associated with such data. A Danish national register on sickness benefit (DREAM) has been widely used in sick leave research. On the basis of sick leave records from 3,554 and 2,311 eldercare workers in 14 different workplaces, the aim of this study was to: 1) validate registered sickness benefit data from DREAM against workplace-registered sick leave spells of at least 15 days; 2) validate self-reported sick leave days during one year against workplace-registered sick leave.
Agreement between workplace-registered sick leave and DREAM-registered sickness benefit was reported as sensitivities, specificities and positive predictive values. A receiver-operating characteristic curve and a Bland-Altman plot were used to study the concordance with sick leave duration of the first spell. By means of an analysis of agreement between self-reported and workplace-registered sick leave sensitivity and specificity was calculated. Ninety-five percent confidence intervals (95% CI) were used.
The probability that registered DREAM data on sickness benefit agrees with workplace-registered sick leave of at least 15 days was 96.7% (95% CI: 95.6-97.6). Specificity was close to 100% (95% CI: 98.3-100). The registered DREAM data on sickness benefit overestimated the duration of sick leave spells by an average of 1.4 (SD: 3.9) weeks. Separate analysis on pregnancy-related sick leave revealed a maximum sensitivity of 20% (95% CI: 4.3-48.1).
The sensitivity of self-reporting at least one or at least 56 sick leave day/s was 94.5 (95% CI: 93.4 – 95.5) % and 58.5 (95% CI: 51.1 – 65.6) % respectively. The corresponding specificities were 85.3 (95% CI: 81.4 – 88.6) % and 98.9 (95% CI: 98.3 – 99.3) %.
The DREAM register offered valid measures of sick leave spells of at least 15 days among eldercare employees. Pregnancy-related sick leave should be excluded in studies planning to use DREAM data on sickness benefit. Self-reported sick leave became more imprecise when number of absence days increased, but the sensitivity and specificity were acceptable for lengths not exceeding one week.
PMCID: PMC3511193  PMID: 22894644
Agreement; Eldercare sector; Public transfer payment; Register data; Self-report; Sensitivity; Sick leave; Specificity; Validation; Workplace record
23.  Comparison of sickness absence in Belgian, German, and Dutch firms. 
International comparisons of sickness absence rates are difficult to make because of different national social security arrangements or recording procedures. Therefore a cross national study of sickness absence in Belgium, West Germany, and the Netherlands focused firstly on "contextual" aspects of sickness absence such as work incapacity benefit schemes, job security regulations, and the role of occupational physicians. Substantial differences were observed in regulations, local definitions, and available data. Those differences provide hypotheses for possibly divergent absence levels as well. For instance, Belgium shows the most diversified control procedures, the lowest level of sickness benefits, and the most rigid qualifying criteria for invalidity benefits. Sickness absence data were obtained from companies of four different clusters, each consisting of a comparable Belgian, German, and Dutch organisation. Conceptual, administrative, and statistical sources of bias were accounted for by selecting companies which resemble each other as to their product, production process, size, and geographical location: by using standardised definitions, absence data, and indices (observation period 1 January 1980 to 1 January 1982); and by measuring population variables to eliminate obvious explanations in terms of workforce composition. Controlled comparisons in these multiple clusters showed considerable and consistent differences in sickness absence rates. Whereas Belgian employees had 20.3 days of sickness absence (standardised for sex, age, and occupation) a year, German and Dutch employees had 28.5 and 39.1 days off a year respectively. Factors that might account for these differences are discussed.
PMCID: PMC1007701  PMID: 3730302
24.  Cost-effectiveness of a participatory return-to-work intervention for temporary agency workers and unemployed workers sick-listed due to musculoskeletal disorders: design of a randomised controlled trial 
Within the working population there is a vulnerable group: workers without an employment contract and workers with a flexible labour market arrangement, e.g. temporary agency workers. In most cases, when sick-listed, these workers have no workplace/employer to return to. Also, for these workers access to occupational health care is limited or even absent in many countries. For this vulnerable working population there is a need for tailor-made occupational health care, including the presence of an actual return-to-work perspective. Therefore, a participatory return-to-work program has been developed based on a successful return-to-work intervention for workers, sick-listed due to low back pain.
The objective of this paper is to describe the design of a randomised controlled trial to study the (cost-)effectiveness of this newly developed participatory return-to-work program adapted for temporary agency workers and unemployed workers, sick-listed due to musculoskeletal disorders, compared to usual care.
The design of this study is a randomised controlled trial with one year of follow-up. The study population consists of temporary agency workers and unemployed workers sick-listed between 2 and 8 weeks due to musculoskeletal disorders. The new return-to-work program is a stepwise program aimed at making a consensus-based return-to-work implementation plan with the possibility of a (therapeutic) workplace to return-to-work. Outcomes are measured at baseline, 3, 6, 9 and 12 months. The primary outcome measure is duration of the sickness benefit period after the first day of reporting sick. Secondary outcome measures are: time until first return-to-work, total number of days of sickness benefit during follow-up; functional status; intensity of musculoskeletal pain; pain coping; and attitude, social influence and self-efficacy determinants. Cost-benefit is evaluated from an insurer's perspective. A process evaluation is part of this study.
For sick-listed workers without an employment contract there can be gained a lot by improving occupational health care, including return-to-work guidance, and by minimising the 'labour market handicap' by creating a return-to-work perspective. In addition, reduction of sickness absence and work disability, i.e. a reduction of disability claims, may result in substantial benefits for the Dutch Social Security System.
Trial registration
Trial registration number: NTR1047.
PMCID: PMC2858719  PMID: 20346183
25.  General practitioners' experiences with sickness certification: a comparison of survey data from Sweden and Norway 
BMC Family Practice  2012;13:10.
In most countries with sickness insurance systems, general practitioners (GPs) play a key role in the sickness-absence process. Previous studies have indicated that GPs experience several tasks and situations related to sickness certification consultations as problematic. The fact that the organization of primary health care and social insurance systems differ between countries may influence both GPs' experiences and certification. The aim of the present study was to gain more knowledge of GPs' experiences of sickness certification, by comparing data from Sweden and Norway, regarding frequencies and aspects of sickness certification found to be problematic.
Statistical analyses of cross-sectional survey data of sickness certification by GPs in Sweden and Norway. In Sweden, all GPs were included, with 3949 (60.6%) responding. In Norway, a representative sample of GPs was included, with 221 (66.5%) responding.
Most GPs reported having consultations involving sickness certification at least once a week; 95% of the GPs in Sweden and 99% of the GPs in Norway. A majority found such tasks problematic; 60% of the GPs in Sweden and 53% in Norway. In a logistic regression, having a higher frequency of sickness certification consultations was associated with a higher risk of experiencing them as problematic, in both countries. A higher rate of GPs in Sweden than in Norway reported meeting patients wanting a sickness certification without a medical reason. GPs in Sweden found it more problematic to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of sick leave with patients and to issue a prolongation of a sick-leave period initiated by another physician. GPs in Norway more often worried that patients would go to another physician if they did not issue a certificate, and a higher proportion of Norwegian GPs found it problematic to handle situations where they and their patient disagreed on the need for sick leave.
The study confirms that many GPs experience sickness absence consultations as problematic. However, there were differences between the two countries in GPs' experiences, which may be linked to differences in social security regulations and the organization of GP services. Possible causes and consequences of national differences should be addressed in future studies.
PMCID: PMC3320536  PMID: 22375615

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