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1.  A Cluster-Randomised Trial Evaluating an Intervention for Patients with Stress-Related Mental Disorders and Sick Leave in Primary Care 
PLoS Clinical Trials  2007;2(6):e26.
Mental health problems often affect functioning to such an extent that they result in sick leave. The worldwide reported prevalence of mental health problems in the working population is 10%–18%. In developed countries, mental health problems are one of the main grounds for receiving disability benefits. In up to 90% of cases the cause is stress-related, and health-care utilisation is mainly restricted to primary care. The aim of this study was to assess the effectiveness of our Minimal Intervention for Stress-related mental disorders with Sick leave (MISS) in primary care, which is intended to reduce sick leave and prevent chronicity of symptoms.
Cluster-randomised controlled educational trial.
Primary health-care practices in the Amsterdam area, The Netherlands.
A total of 433 patients (MISS n = 227, usual care [UC] n = 206) with sick leave and self-reported elevated level of distress.
Forty-six primary care physicians were randomised to either receive training in the MISS or to provide UC. Eligible patients were screened by mail.
Outcome Measures:
The primary outcome measure was duration of sick leave until lasting full return to work. The secondary outcomes were levels of self-reported distress, depression, anxiety, and somatisation.
No superior effect of the MISS was found on duration of sick leave (hazard ratio 1.06, 95% confidence interval 0.87–1.29) nor on severity of self-reported symptoms.
We found no evidence that the MISS is more effective than UC in our study sample of distressed patients. Continuing research should focus on the potential beneficial effects of the MISS; we need to investigate which elements of the intervention might be useful and which elements should be adjusted to make the MISS effective.
Editorial Commentary
Background: People who take sick leave from work as a result of mental health problems very often report that the cause is stress-related. Although stress-related sick leave imposes a significant burden on individuals and economies, few evidence-based therapies exist to prevent sick leave in people who are experiencing stress-related mental health problems. The researchers carrying out this study wanted to evaluate the effectiveness of an intervention for stress-related mental health disorders amongst people who had been on sick leave for less than three months. The intervention involved short training sessions for primary health-care practitioners, during which the practitioners were taught how to diagnose stress-related problems; how to provide information to patients and encourage their recovery and active return to work; and how to give advice and monitor patients' recovery. The researchers carried out a cluster-randomized trial evaluating this training program, in which 46 primary care practitioners were assigned by chance to receive either the training program or to practice usual care. Over the course of the trial, 433 patients with elevated levels of distress and sick leave were included in the study, 227 of whom were treated by practitioners receiving the training program and 206 of whom received usual care. These patients were followed up for 12 months and the primary outcome studied in the trial was the length of sick leave taken until full return to work. Secondary outcome measures included patients' reports of distress, depression, and other symptoms as recorded using specific questionnaires.
What the trial shows: In the trial, data on the primary outcome measure was available for 87% of the patients treated by practitioners receiving the training intervention and 84% of the patients receiving usual care. When these outcomes were analyzed, there was no evidence of a benefit of the training program on amount of sick leave taken. Over the course of the study, the severity of patients' self-reported symptoms fell in both groups, but there was no significant difference in symptom severity between the two groups of patients. A subgroup analysis suggested that more practitioners in the intervention group recognized patients as having stress-related mental health problems. Among the group of patients who were diagnosed as having stress-related mental health problems, those who were treated by practitioners in the intervention group seemed to return to work slightly more quickly than those in the usual care group. However, it is not easy to interpret the findings of this secondary analysis.
Strengths and limitations: Strengths of this study include the procedures for cluster randomization, in which primary care practitioners were randomized, rather than patients. This process ensures that only patients assigned to the intervention arm receive the benefits of the intervention, and avoids “contamination” between intervention and control groups. A further strength includes the blinding of researchers who were collecting data to the intervention that each practitioner had received. The findings of the study, however, are difficult to interpret. No effect of the training intervention was found on the study's primary outcome measure; it is possible that the training intervention does indeed have some benefit, but the benefit may not have been found in this particular trial because of the inclusion of patients with a very wide range of problems; in addition the practitioners may have not had the time or ability to apply what they learnt in the training program.
Contribution to the evidence: Very little evidence exists regarding the effects of training interventions for improving care of patients with stress-related mental health problems. The findings of this trial support those of another study carried out in a primary care setting, which found that training interventions do not seem to reduce length of sick leave. However, another study carried out in an occupational health-care setting, in which patients included in the trial had been recognised as having stress-related mental disorders, did find some benefit of an intervention program.
PMCID: PMC1885369  PMID: 17549228
2.  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
3.  Determinants for return to work among sickness certified patients in general practice 
BMC Public Health  2012;12:1077.
Long-term sickness absence is one of the main risk factors for permanent exit out of the labour market. Early identification of the condition is essential to facilitate return to work. The aim of this study was to analyse possible determinants of return to work and their relative impact.
All 943 subjects aged 18 to 63 years, sickness certified at a Primary Health Care Centre in Sweden from 1 January until 31 August 2004, were followed up for three years. Baseline information on sex, age, sick leave diagnosis, employment status, extent of sick leave, and sickness absence during the year before baseline was obtained, as was information on all compensated days of sick leave, disability pension and death during follow-up.
Slightly more than half the subjects were women, mean age was 39 years. Half of the study population returned to work within 14 days after baseline, and after three years only 15 subjects were still on sick leave. In multivariate proportional hazards regression analysis the extent of previous sick leave, age, being on part-time sick leave, and having a psychiatric, musculoskeletal, cardiovascular, nervous disease, digestive system, or injury or poisoning diagnosis decreased the return to work rate, while being employed increased it. Marital status, sex, being born in Sweden, citizenship, and annual salary had no influence. In logistic regression analyses across follow-up time these variables altogether explained 88-90% of return to work variation.
Return to work was positively or negatively associated by a number of variables easily accessible in the GP’s office. Track record data in the form of previous sick leave was the most influential variable.
PMCID: PMC3541101  PMID: 23241229
4.  Biventricular Pacing (Cardiac Resynchronization Therapy) 
Executive Summary
In 2002, (before the establishment of the Ontario Health Technology Advisory Committee), the Medical Advisory Secretariat conducted a health technology policy assessment on biventricular (BiV) pacing, also called cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT). The goal of treatment with BiV pacing is to improve cardiac output for people in heart failure (HF) with conduction defect on ECG (wide QRS interval) by synchronizing ventricular contraction. The Medical Advisory Secretariat concluded that there was evidence of short (6 months) and longer-term (12 months) effectiveness in terms of cardiac function and quality of life (QoL). More recently, a hospital submitted an application to the Ontario Health Technology Advisory Committee to review CRT, and the Medical Advisory Secretariat subsequently updated its health technology assessment.
Chronic HF results from any structural or functional cardiac disorder that impairs the ability of the heart to act as a pump. It is estimated that 1% to 5% of the general population (all ages) in Europe have chronic HF. (1;2) About one-half of the patients with HF are women, and about 40% of men and 60% of women with this condition are aged older than 75 years.
The incidence (i.e., the number of new cases in a specified period) of chronic HF is age dependent: from 1 to 5 per 1,000 people each year in the total population, to as high as 30 to 40 per 1,000 people each year in those aged 75 years and older. Hence, in an aging society, the prevalence (i.e., the number of people with a given disease or condition at any time) of HF is increasing, despite a reduction in cardiovascular mortality.
A recent study revealed 28,702 patients were hospitalized for first-time HF in Ontario between April 1994 and March 1997. (3) Women comprised 51% of the cohort. Eighty-five percent were aged 65 years or older, and 58% were aged 75 years or older.
Patients with chronic HF experience shortness of breath, a limited capacity for exercise, high rates of hospitalization and rehospitalization, and die prematurely. (2;4) The New York Heart Association (NYHA) has provided a commonly used functional classification for the severity of HF (2;5):
Class I: No limitation of physical activity. No symptoms with ordinary exertion.
Class II: Slight limitations of physical activity. Ordinary activity causes symptoms.
Class III: Marked limitation of physical activity. Less than ordinary activity causes symptoms. Asymptomatic at rest.
Class IV: Inability to carry out any physical activity without discomfort. Symptoms at rest.
The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute estimates that 35% of patients with HF are in functional NYHA class I; 35% are in class II; 25%, class III; and 5%, class IV. (5) Surveys (2) suggest that from 5% to 15% of patients with HF have persistent severe symptoms, and that the remainder of patients with HF is evenly divided between those with mild and moderately severe symptoms.
Overall, patients with chronic, stable HF have an annual mortality rate of about 10%. (2) One-third of patients with new-onset HF will die within 6 months of diagnosis. These patients do not survive to enter the pool of those with “chronic” HF. About 60% of patients with incident HF will die within 3 years, and there is limited evidence that the overall prognosis has improved in the last 15 years.
To date, the diagnosis and management of chronic HF has concentrated on patients with the clinical syndrome of HF accompanied by severe left ventricular systolic dysfunction. Major changes in treatment have resulted from a better understanding of the pathophysiology of HF and the results of large clinical trials. Treatment for chronic HF includes lifestyle management, drugs, cardiac surgery, or implantable pacemakers and defibrillators. Despite pharmacologic advances, which include diuretics, angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors, beta-blockers, spironolactone, and digoxin, many patients remain symptomatic on maximally tolerated doses.
The Technology
Owing to the limitations of drug therapy, cardiac transplantation and device therapies have been used to try to improve QoL and survival of patients with chronic HF. Ventricular pacing is an emerging treatment option for patients with severe HF that does not respond well to medical therapy. Traditionally, indications for pacing include bradyarrhythmia, sick sinus syndrome, atrioventricular block, and other indications, including combined sick sinus syndrome with atrioventricular block and neurocardiogenic syncope. Recently, BiV pacing as a new, adjuvant therapy for patients with chronic HF and mechanical dyssynchrony has been investigated. Ventricular dysfunction is a sign of HF; and, if associated with severe intraventricular conduction delay, it can cause dyssynchronous ventricular contractions resulting in decreased ventricular filling. The therapeutic intent is to activate both ventricles simultaneously, thereby improving the mechanical efficiency of the ventricles.
About 30% of patients with chronic HF have intraventricular conduction defects. (6) These conduction abnormalities progress over time and lead to discoordinated contraction of an already hemodynamically compromised ventricle. Intraventricular conduction delay has been associated with clinical instability and an increased risk of death in patients with HF. (7) Hence, BiV pacing, which involves pacing left and right ventricles simultaneously, may provide a more coordinated pattern of ventricular contraction and thereby potentially reduce QRS duration, and intraventricular and interventricular asynchrony. People with advanced chronic HF, a wide QRS complex (i.e., the portion of the electrocardiogram comprising the Q, R, and S waves, together representing ventricular depolarization), low left ventricular ejection fraction and contraction dyssynchrony in a viable myocardium and normal sinus rhythm, are the target patients group for BiV pacing. One-half of all deaths in HF patients are sudden, and the mode of death is arrhythmic in most cases. Internal cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs) combined with BiV pacemakers are therefore being increasingly considered for patients with HF who are at high risk of sudden death.
Current Implantation Technique for Cardiac Resynchronization
Conventional dual-chamber pacemakers have only 2 leads: 1 placed in the right atrium and the other in the right ventricle. The technique used for BiV pacemaker implantation also uses right atrial and ventricular pacing leads, in addition to a left ventricle lead advanced through the coronary sinus into a vein that runs along the ventricular free wall. This permits simultaneous pacing of both ventricles to allow resynchronization of the left ventricle septum and free wall.
Mode of Operation
Permanent pacing systems consist of an implantable pulse generator that contains a battery and electronic circuitry, together with 1 (single-chamber pacemaker) or 2 (dual-chamber pacemaker) leads. Leads conduct intrinsic atrial or ventricular signals to the sensing circuitry and deliver the pulse generator charge to the myocardium (muscle of the heart).
Complications of Biventricular Pacemaker Implantation
The complications that may arise when a BiV pacemaker is implanted are similar to those that occur with standard pacemaker implantation, including pneumothorax, perforation of the great vessels or the myocardium, air embolus, infection, bleeding, and arrhythmias. Moreover, left ventricular pacing through the coronary sinus can be associated with rupture of the sinus as another complication.
Conclusion of 2003 Review of Biventricular Pacemakers by the Medical Advisory Secretariat
The randomized controlled trials (RCTs) the Medical Advisory Secretariat retrieved analyzed chronic HF patients that were assessed for up to 6 months. Other studies have been prospective, but nonrandomized, not double-blinded, uncontrolled and/or have had a limited or uncalculated sample size. Short-term studies have focused on acute hemodynamic analyses. The authors of the RCTs reported improved cardiac function and QoL up to 6 months after BiV pacemaker implantation; therefore, there is level 1 evidence that patients in ventricular dyssynchrony who remain symptomatic after medication might benefit from this technology. Based on evidence made available to the Medical Advisory Secretariat by a manufacturer, (8) it appears that these 6-month improvements are maintained at 12-month follow-up.
To date, however, there is insufficient evidence to support the routine use of combined ICD/BiV devices in patients with chronic HF with prolonged QRS intervals.
Summary of Updated Findings Since the 2003 Review
Since the Medical Advisory Secretariat’s review in 2003 of biventricular pacemakers, 2 large RCTs have been published: COMPANION (9) and CARE-HF. (10) The characteristics of each trial are shown in Table 1. The COMPANION trial had a number of major methodological limitations compared with the CARE-HF trial.
Characteristics of the COMPANION and CARE-HF Trials*
BiV indicates biventricular; ICD, implantable cardioverter defibrillator; EF, ejection fraction; QRS, the interval representing the Q, R and S waves on an electrocardiogram; FDA, United States Food and Drug Administration.
Overall, CARE-HF showed that BiV pacing significantly improves mortality, QoL, and NYHA class in patients with severe HF and a wide QRS interval (Tables 2 and 3).
CARE-HF Results: Primary and Secondary Endpoints*
BiV indicates biventricular; NNT, number needed to treat.
Cleland JGF, Daubert J, Erdmann E, Freemantle N, Gras D, Kappenberger L et al. The effect of cardiac resynchronization on morbidity and mortality in heart failure (CARE-HF). New England Journal of Medicine 2005; 352:1539-1549; Copyright 2003 Massachusettes Medical Society. All rights reserved. (10)
CARE H-F Results: NYHA Class and Quality of Life Scores*
Minnesota Living with Heart Failure scores range from 0 to 105; higher scores reflect poorer QoL.
European Quality of Life–5 Dimensions scores range from -0.594 to 1.000; 1.000 indicates fully healthy; 0, dead
Cleland JGF, Daubert J, Erdmann E, Freemantle N, Gras D, Kappenberger L et al. The effect of cardiac resynchronization on morbidity and mortality in heart failure (CARE-HF). New England Journal of Medicine 2005; 352:1539-1549; Copyright 2005 Massachusettes Medical Society. All rights reserved.(10)
GRADE Quality of Evidence
The quality of these 3 trials was examined according to the GRADE Working Group criteria, (12) (Table 4).
Quality refers to criteria such as the adequacy of allocation concealment, blinding, and follow-up.
Consistency refers to the similarity of estimates of effect across studies. If there is an important unexplained inconsistency in the results, confidence in the estimate of effect for that outcome decreases. Differences in the direction of effect, the size of the differences in effect, and the significance of the differences guide the decision about whether important inconsistency exists.
Directness refers to the extent to which the people interventions and outcome measures are similar to those of interest. For example, there may be uncertainty about the directness of the evidence if the people of interest are older, sicker, or have more comorbid conditions than do the people in the studies.
As stated by the GRADE Working Group, (12) the following definitions were used in grading the quality of the evidence:
High: Further research is very unlikely to change our confidence on the estimate of effect.
Moderate: Further research is likely to have an important impact on our confidence in the estimate of effect and may change the estimate.
Low: Further research is very likely to have an important impact on our confidence in the estimate of effect and is likely to change the estimate.
Very low: Any estimate of effect is very uncertain.
Quality of Evidence: CARE-HF and COMPANION
Overall, there is evidence that BiV pacemakers are effective for improving mortality, QoL, and functional status in patients with NYHA class III/IV HF, an EF less than 0.35, a QRS interval greater than 120 ms, who are refractory to drug therapy.
As per the GRADE Working Group, recommendations considered the following 4 main factors:
The tradeoffs, taking into account the estimated size of the effect for the main outcome, the confidence limits around those estimates, and the relative value placed on the outcome
The quality of the evidence (Table 4)
Translation of the evidence into practice in a specific setting, taking into consideration important factors that could be expected to modify the size of the expected effects such as proximity to a hospital or availability of necessary expertise
Uncertainty about the baseline risk for the population of interest
The GRADE Working Group also recommends that incremental costs of health care alternatives should be considered explicitly alongside the expected health benefits and harms. Recommendations rely on judgments about the value of the incremental health benefits in relation to the incremental costs. The last column in Table 5 shows the overall trade-off between benefits and harms and incorporates any risk/uncertainty.
For BiV pacing, the overall GRADE and strength of the recommendation is moderate: the quality of the evidence is moderate/high (because of some uncertainty due to methodological limitations in the study design, e.g., no blinding), but there is also some risk/uncertainty in terms of the estimated prevalence and wide cost-effectiveness estimates (Table 5).
For the combination BiV pacing/ICD, the overall GRADE and strength of the recommendation is weak—the quality of the evidence is low (because of uncertainty due to methodological limitations in the study design), but there is also some risk/uncertainty in terms of the estimated prevalence, high cost, and high budget impact (Table 5). There are indirect, low-quality comparisons of the effectiveness of BiV pacemakers compared with the combination BiV/ICD devices.
A stronger recommendation can be made for BiV pacing only compared with the combination BiV/ICD device for patients with an EF less than or equal to 0.35, and a QRS interval over or equal to 120 ms, and NYHA III/IV symptoms, and refractory to optimal medical therapy (Table 5).
There is moderate/high-quality evidence that BiV pacemakers significantly improve mortality, QoL, and functional status.
There is low-quality evidence that combined BiV/ICD devices significantly improve mortality, QoL, and functional status.
To date, there are no direct comparisons of the effectiveness of BiV pacemakers compared with the combined BiV/ICD devices in terms of mortality, QoL, and functional status.
Overall GRADE and Strength of Recommendation
BiV refers to biventricular; ICD, implantable cardioverter defibrillator; NNT, number needed to treat.
PMCID: PMC3382419  PMID: 23074464
5.  Patients with ankylosing spondylitis have increased sick leave—a registry-based case–control study over 7 yrs 
Rheumatology (Oxford, England)  2009;48(3):289-292.
Objectives. Using prospectively collected registry data to investigate sick leave (sickness benefit and sickness compensation) over a 7-yr period in patients with AS in comparison with population-based controls matched for age, sex and residential area.
Methods. We investigated 122 (21 women and 101 men) outpatients with AS in South Sweden, born 1942 or later, from rheumatology specialist care for their sick leave during a 7-yr period. Mean (s.d.) age was 43 (11) yrs and mean (s.d.) disease duration was 20 (11) yrs. Two controls per case, matched for age, sex and residential area were selected from the Swedish National Population Register. Data concerning sick leave for cases and controls, based on the subjects’ unique 10-digit personal identification number, were retrieved from the national register of the Swedish Social Insurance Agency.
Results. More AS patients than controls were registered for sickness benefit (52 vs 36%, P < 0.01) and sickness compensation (42 vs 11%, P < 0.001). Cases had an increased risk for sick leave compared with controls with a relative risk of 1.8; 95% CI 1.5, 2.1; and cases had more days with sick leave than controls (median number of more days per year 30; 95% CI 2, 72).
Conclusions. Using the Swedish Social Insurance Agency's registers for sick leave, we found that patients with AS in rheumatology specialist care in South Sweden have an increased level of sick leave compared with controls. These population-based registers have a great potential for studies of the effects of different interventions on sick leave.
PMCID: PMC2644046  PMID: 19164425
Ankylosing spondylitis; Sick leave; Work disability; Controlled study; Register
6.  Pregnancy related sickness absence in a Swedish county, 1985-87. 
Sickness absence during pregnancy has increased in Sweden as well as in other countries. STUDY OBJECTIVE--The study aimed to describe pregnancy related sickness absence and its increase from 1985-87; to consider if the increase were parallel to an increase in sickness absence for all diagnoses or could be explained by a higher birth rate; and to compare different ways of presenting sickness absence data. DESIGN--The data from a prospective incidence study of all new sick leave spells exceeding seven days in 1985-87 were related to the population at risk through relevant data from different registers. SETTING--The county of Ostergötland, Sweden (about 400,000 inhabitants). PARTICIPANTS--Subjects were approximately 70,000 sick leave-insured women aged 16-44 years, of whom some 15,000 had sickness absences > seven days. Some 4600 women gave birth in 1985, approximately 1300 of whom were listed as having pregnancy related diagnoses. MAIN RESULTS--The number of women with sick leave associated with pregnancy related diagnoses increased by 24% (95% confidence interval (CI) 15, 33%) during the period. This diagnosis group was one of the very few with an increasing number of people listed as sick. The corresponding increase for all diagnoses in women aged 16-44 years was < 1% (95% CI 1, 3%). The increase in the number of women who gave birth was 9% (95% CI 5, 13%). The sick leave rate associated with pregnancy related disorders increased by 14% (95% CI 7, 21%) in 1985-87, while that in all women aged 16-44 years increased by 3% (95% 1, 5%). (p < 0.0001). The number of sick leave days associated with pregnancy related disorders increased by 49% (p < 0.0001) in the period--twice the equivalent increase (p < 0.0001) in the total number of sick leave days for all diagnoses taken together. The sick leave rate and duration, like the increase in these variables, varied with age. Different ways of presenting the length of absence proved complementary to each other. CONCLUSIONS--After correcting for changes in the overall sick leave rate and in the birth rate, there is still an 11% increase in the sick leave rate associated with pregnancy related disorders that needs to be explained. Medical factors cannot explain this increase but changes in attitudes and practice in relation to sickness insurance among pregnant women and their doctors merit further study.
PMCID: PMC1060009  PMID: 7964356
7.  Sick leave patterns in common musculoskeletal disorders – a study of doctor prescribed sick leave 
Comparative data on sick leave within musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) is limited. Our objective was to give a descriptive overview of sick leave patterns in different MSDs.
Using electronic medical records, we collected information on dates and diagnostic codes for all available sick leave certificates, during 2 years (2009–2010), in the North Western part of the Skåne region in Sweden (22 public primary health care centres and two general hospitals). Using the International Classification of Diseases (ICD) 10 codes on the certificates we studied duration, age and sex distribution and recurrent periods of sick leave for six strategically chosen MSDs; low back pain (M54) disc disorders (M51), knee osteoarthritis (M17) hip osteoarthritis (M16) rheumatoid arthritis (M05-M06) and myalgia (M79).
All together 20 251 sick leave periods were issued for 16 673 individuals 16–64 years of age (53% women). Out of the selected disorders, low back pain and myalgia had the shortest sick leave periods, with a mean of 26 and 27 days, respectively, while disc disorders and rheumatoid arthritis had the longest periods with a mean of 150 and 147 days. For low back pain and myalgia 27% and 26% of all sick leave was short (8–14 days) and only 11% and 13%, were long (≥90 days). For the other selected MSDs, less than 5% of the periods were short. For disc disorders, hip osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, more than 60% of the periods were long (p > 0.001). For back disorders and myalgia most periods were issued in the age groups between 40–49, with similar patterns for women and men. Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis had most periods in the age groups of 50–64, and patterns for women and men differed. Low back pain, rheumatoid arthritis and myalgia had the greatest share of recurrent sick leave (31%, 34% and 32% respectively).
Duration, age and sex distribution and numbers of recurrent sick leave varies considerably between different MSDs. This underscores the importance of using specified diagnosis, in sick leave research as well as in planning of treatment and rehabilitation and evaluation of prognosis.
PMCID: PMC4060756  PMID: 24886568
Sick leave; Musculoskeletal; Duration of sick leave; Diagnosis; Back pain; Osteoarthritis; Rheumatoid arthritis; Myalgia
8.  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.
PMCID: PMC3173611  PMID: 21080214
Return to work; Work disability; Health care services; Musculoskeletal disorders
9.  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 
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.
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.
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 ( H-C-2008-112) and is registered at.
Trial registration NCT01690234
PMCID: PMC3606127  PMID: 23496897
Low back pain (LBP); Return to work (RTW); Sickness absence; Rehabilitation; Prevention; Multidisciplinary intervention; Coordination; Denmark
10.  Effectiveness of a Minimal Intervention for Stress-related mental disorders with Sick leave (MISS); study protocol of a cluster randomised controlled trial in general practice [ISRCTN43779641] 
BMC Public Health  2006;6:124.
The main aims of this paper are to describe the setting and design of a Minimal Intervention in general practice for Stress-related mental disorders in patients on Sick leave (MISS), as well as to ascertain the study complies with the requirements for a cluster randomised controlled trial (RCT). The potential adverse consequences of sick leave due to Stress-related Mental Disorders (SMDs) are extensive, but often not recognised. Since most people having SMDs with sick leave consult their general practitioner (GP) at an early stage, a tailored intervention given by GPs is justified. We provide a detailed description of the MISS; that is more accurate assessment, education, advice and monitoring to treat SMDs in patients on sick leave. Our hypothesis is that the MISS will be more effective compared to the usual care, in reducing days of sick leave of these patients.
The design is a pragmatic RCT. Randomisation is at the level of GPs. They received the MISS-training versus no training, in order to compare the MISS vs. usual care at patient level. Enrolment of patients took place after screening in the source population, that comprised 20–60 year old primary care attendees. Inclusion criteria were: moderately elevated distress levels, having a paid job and sick leave for no longer than three months. There is a one year follow up. The primary outcome measure is lasting full return to work. Reduction of SMD- symptoms is one of the secondary outcome measures. Forty-six GPs and 433 patients agreed to participate.
In our study design, attention is given to the practical application of the requirements for a pragmatic trial. The results of this cluster RCT will add to the evidence about treatment options in general practice for SMDs in patients on sick leave, and might contribute to a new and appropriate guideline. These results will be available at the end of 2006.
PMCID: PMC1475849  PMID: 16674806
11.  Predictors of repeated sick leave in the workplace because of mental disorders 
Mental disorders create a considerable burden to society. Previous studies have shown that productivity loss constitutes the largest proportion of the total societal burden. For depression and anxiety disorders, in particular, more than half of the associated productivity loss occurs in the workplace. Many previous studies have clarified the risk factors for the relapse/recurrence of mental disorders in health care settings. However, the risk factors for repeated sick leave among mental disorders prevalent in the workplace have not yet been adequately evaluated.
The objective of this study was to investigate which variables could predict repeated sick leave for workers with a history of sick leave because of mental disorders.
Data regarding 194 subjects employed at a manufacturing company were obtained. Mental disorders were defined as disorders listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fourth edition (DSM-IV). The duration between the return to work (RTW) and the repeated sick leave was regarded as a dependent variable. The subjects’ age at the RTW, sex, age at the time of employment, job tenure, diagnosis, number of previous sick leave days, duration of most recent sick leave, and employee rank were examined as explanatory variables. Univariate analyses using a log-rank test and a multivariate analysis using the Cox proportional hazard model were conducted.
The results of the univariate analyses showed that the number of previous sick-leave episodes was a significant predictor of repeated sick leave. A multivariate analysis revealed that age at RTW and the number of previous sick-leave episodes were significant variables.
Age and the number of previous sick-leave episodes appeared to be predictors of repeated sick leave. Therefore, effective intervention to prevent repeated sick leave for those with high risk is quite crucial. Analyses including various work-related factors with subjects from multiple companies should be conducted in future studies.
PMCID: PMC3916086  PMID: 24511234
sickness absence; occupational mental health; relapse/recurrence
12.  The influence of lifestyle and gender on sickness absence in Brazilian workers 
BMC Public Health  2014;14:317.
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.
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.
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%).
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.
PMCID: PMC3983852  PMID: 24708760
Sick leave; Gender; Health behavior
13.  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
14.  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
15.  Effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of an exposure-based return-to-work programme for patients on sick leave due to common mental disorders: design of a cluster-randomized controlled trial 
BMC Public Health  2009;9:140.
To reduce the duration of sick leave and loss of productivity due to common mental disorders (CMDs), we developed a return-to-work programme to be provided by occupational physicians (OPs) based on the principles of exposure in vivo (RTW-E programme). This study evaluates this programme's effectiveness and cost-effectiveness by comparing it with care as usual (CAU). The three research questions we have are: 1) Is an RTW-E programme more effective in reducing the sick leave of employees with common mental disorders, compared with care as usual? 2) Is an RTW-E programme more effective in reducing sick leave for employees with anxiety disorders compared with employees with other common mental disorders? 3) From a societal perspective, is an RTW-E programme cost-effective compared with care as usual?
This study was designed as a pragmatic cluster-randomized controlled trial with a one-year follow-up and randomization on the level of OPs. We aimed for 60 OPs in order to include 200 patients. Patients in the intervention group received the RTW-E programme. Patients in the control group received care as usual. Eligible patients had been on sick leave due to common mental disorders for at least two weeks and no longer than eight weeks. As primary outcome measures, we calculated the time until full return to work and the duration of sick leave. Secondary outcome measures were time until partial return to work, prevalence rate of sick leave at 3, 6, 9, and 12 months' follow-up, and scores of symptoms of distress, anxiety, depression, somatization, and fatigue; work capacity; perceived working conditions; self-efficacy for return to work; coping behaviour; avoidance behaviour; patient satisfaction; and work adaptations. As process measures, we used indices of compliance with the intervention in the intervention group and employee-supervisor communication in both groups. Economic costs were calculated from a societal perspective. The total costs consisted of the costs of consuming health care, costs of production loss due to sick leave and reduced productivity, and out-of-pocket costs of patients for travelling to their OP.
The results will be published in 2009. The strengths and weaknesses of the study protocol are discussed.
Trial registration
PMCID: PMC2689200  PMID: 19439084
16.  Patient factors associated with duration of certified sickness absence and transition to long-term incapacity. 
BACKGROUND: Despite a considerable increase in claims for long-term sickness benefits, and the impact of certifying sickness upon general practitioner (GP) workload, little is known about transition to long-term incapacity for work. AIM: To explore the relationship between patient factors and the transition from short-term to long-term work incapacity, in particular focusing on mild mental health and musculoskeletal problems. SETTING: Nine practices comprising the Mersey Primary Care R&D Consortium. DESIGN: Prospective data collection and audit of sickness certificate details. METHOD: GPs issued carbonised sickness certificates for a period of 12 months. The resulting baseline dataset included claimant diagnosis, age, sex, postcode-derived deprivation score, and sickness episode duration. Associations of patient factors with sickness duration outcomes were tested. RESULTS: Mild mental disorder accounted for nearly 40% of certified sickness. Relatively few claimants had their diagnosis changed during a sickness episode. Risk factors for longer-term incapacity included increasing age, social deprivation, mild and severe mental disorder, neoplasm, and congenital illness. For mild mental disorder claimants, age, addiction, and deprivation were risk factors for relatively longer incapacity. For musculoskeletal problems, the development of chronic incapacity was significantly related to the nature of the problem. Back pain claimants were likely to return to work sooner than those with other musculoskeletal problems. CONCLUSIONS: In addition to the presenting diagnosis, a range of factors is associated with the development of chronic incapacity for work, including age and social deprivation. GPs should consider these when negotiating sickness certification with patients.
PMCID: PMC1314799  PMID: 14965385
17.  Psychoeducation to facilitate return to work in individuals on sick leave and at risk of having a mental disorder: protocol of a randomised controlled trial 
BMC Public Health  2014;14(1):1288.
Sickness absence due to poor mental health is a common problem in many Western countries. To facilitate return to work, it may be important to identify individuals on sick leave and at risk of having a mental disorder and subsequently to offer appropriate treatment. Psychoeducation alone has not previously been used as a return to work intervention, but may be a promising tool to facilitate return to work. Therefore, the aim of the study is to evaluate the effectiveness of psychoeducation designed specifically to facilitate return to work for individuals on sick leave and at risk of having a mental disorder. The psychoeducation was a supplement to the various standard offers provided by the job centres.
The study is a randomised controlled trial, in which individuals on sick leave either receive psychoeducation and standard case management or standard case management alone. Participants were individuals with mental health symptoms, who had been on sick leave from part-time or full-time work or unemployment for about 4–8 weeks. The psychoeducational intervention was group-based and the course consisted of 2 hour sessions once a week for 6 weeks. The course was given by psychiatric nurses, a psychologist, a social worker, a physiotherapist and a person who had previously been on sick leave due to mental health problems. The sessions focused on stress and work life, and the purpose was to provide individuals on sick leave the skills to understand and improve their mental functioning.
The primary outcome is the duration of sickness absence measured by register data. Secondary outcomes include psychological symptoms, mental health-related quality of life, and locus of control. These outcomes are measured by questionnaires at the start of the intervention and at 3 and 6 months follow-up.
On the basis of this trial, the effect of psychoeducation for individuals on sick leave and at risk of having a mental disorder will be studied. The results will contribute to the continuing research on sickness absence and mental health. It will primarily show whether psychoeducation can lead to faster and sustainable return to work.
Trial Registration
Clinical NCT01637363. Registered 6 July 2012.
PMCID: PMC4300682  PMID: 25516423
Sickness absence; Psychoeducation; Mental health; Return to work; Psychological symptoms; Mental health-related quality of life; Locus of control
18.  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
19.  Risk factors for absenteeism due to sick leave in the petroleum industry 
Revista de Saúde Pública  2014;48(1):103-112.
To identify risk factors for absenteeism among workers with sick leave in an oil company.
A case-control study (120 cases and 656 controls) nested in a retrospective cohort study following up all employees of an oil company in the North-Northeast of Brazil from 2007 to 2009. The response variable used to represent absenteeism with sick leave was the average incidence of sick leave, defined as the ratio between total sick days and potential working days in the period. Logistic regression techniques were used to investigate the association between average incidence of sick leave > 5.0% over the period and the variables sex, position, age, time at work, shift work, smoking, arterial hypertension, body mass index, physical activity, coronary risk, sleep, glycemia, non-managed diabetes, cardiovascular, digestive, musculoskeletal, neurological and neoplastic diseases, straining body positioning during work, satisfaction at work, relationship with management, and concentrated attention at work.
Average incidence of sick leave higher than 5.0% in the cohort period was 15.5%. The logistic model revealed that workers with average incidence of sick leave higher than 5.0% were 2.6 times more likely to be female; 2.0 time more likely to be smokers; 1.8 time more likely to be former smokers; 2.2 times more likely to report abnormal sleep and 10.5 times more likely to report dissatisfaction with their than workers with average incidence of sick leave ≤ 5.0% in the period.
In this population, female gender, being a smoker or a former smoker, reporting dissatisfaction with the job and reporting abnormal sleep are good predictors of occupational absenteeism with sick leave.
PMCID: PMC4206122  PMID: 24789643
Absenteeism; Sick Leave; Workers; Petroleum Industry; Occupational Health; Occupational Health Services; Epidemiologic Surveillance Services; Case-Control Studies
20.  Sickness absence due to otoaudiological diagnoses; a descriptive nationwide study 
BMC Public Health  2013;13:635.
Hearing difficulties constitute a large public health problem. Knowledge about their consequences in terms of sickness absence due to otoaudiological diagnoses is very scarce. The aim of this study was to gain such knowledge. Both individuals with sick leave due to otoaudiological diagnoses and sick-leave spells due to these diagnoses were examined, in a nationwide setting.
Through Swedish nationwide registers we identified all 4768 individuals, aged 16–64 years and living in Sweden who were sickness absent due to otoaudiological diagnoses (ICD10; H60-H95) in 2005. We described the demographic characteristics of these individuals, as well as aspects regarding prevalence and duration of such sick-leave spells, in general and in four specific diagnosis groups; otological, hearing, vertigo, and tinnitus.
Sick leave due to otoaudiological diagnoses was more common among women in all diagnosis groups except with tinnitus. Individuals with a hearing or tinnitus sick-leave diagnosis had a higher educational level and were hospitalized fewer days compared to those sickness absent due to vertigo or otological diagnoses. Particularly, sick-leave spells due to hearing or tinnitus diagnoses tended to be long, in many cases lasting the entire year. The majority of the individuals only had one sick-leave spell in 2005.
Although the actual number of individuals with a sick-leave spell due to specific otoaudiological diagnosis might not be considered high, the high prevalence of long sick-leave spells due to particularly hearing and tinnitus diagnoses indicates the importance of preventive and rehabilitative actions.
PMCID: PMC3733665  PMID: 23835212
Otoaudiological diagnoses; Hearing difficulties; Sick leave
21.  Are environmental characteristics in the municipal eldercare, more closely associated with frequent short sick leave spells among employees than with total sick leave: a cross-sectional study 
BMC Public Health  2013;13:578.
It has been suggested that frequent-, short-term sick leave is associated with work environment factors, whereas long-term sick leave is associated mainly with health factors. However, studies of the hypothesis of an association between a poor working environment and frequent short spells of sick leave are few and results are inconsistent. Therefore, we aimed to explore associations between self-reported psychosocial work factors and workplace-registered frequency and length of sick leave in the eldercare sector.
Employees from the municipal eldercare in Aarhus (N = 2,534) were included. In 2005, they responded to a work environment questionnaire. Sick leave records from 2005 were dichotomised into total sick leave days (0–14 and above 14 days) and into spell patterns (0–2 short, 3–9 short, and mixed spells and 1–3 long spells). Logistic regression models were used to analyse associations; adjusted for age, gender, occupation, and number of spells or sick leave length.
The response rate was 76%; 96% of the respondents were women. Unfavourable mean scores in work pace, demands for hiding emotions, poor quality of leadership and bullying were best indicated by more than 14 sick leave days compared with 0–14 sick leave days. For work pace, the best indicator was a long-term sick leave pattern compared with a non-frequent short-term pattern. A frequent short-term sick leave pattern was a better indicator of emotional demands (1.62; 95% CI: 1.1-2.5) and role conflict (1.50; 95% CI: 1.2-1.9) than a short-term non-frequent pattern.
Age (= < 40 / >40 years) statistically significantly modified the association between the 1–3 long-term sick leave spell pattern and commitment to the workplace compared with the 3–9 frequent short-term pattern.
Total sick leave length and a long-term sick leave spell pattern were just as good or even better indicators of unfavourable work factor scores than a frequent short-term sick leave pattern. Scores in commitment to the workplace and quality of leadership varied with sick leave pattern and age. Thus, different sick leave measures seem to be associated with different work environment factors. Further studies on these associations may inform interventions to improve occupational health care.
PMCID: PMC3701566  PMID: 23764253
Cross-sectional; Home care services; Psychology, Social; Sick leave; Working environment
22.  Reducing long term sickness absence by an activating intervention in adjustment disorders: a cluster randomised controlled design 
Aims: To compare an innovative activating intervention with "care as usual" (control group) for the guidance of employees on sickness leave because of an adjustment disorder. It was hypothesised that the intervention would be more effective than care as usual in lowering the intensity of symptoms, increasing psychological resources, and decreasing sickness leave duration.
Methods: A prospective, cluster randomised controlled trial was carried out with 192 patients on first sickness leave for an adjustment disorder. Symptom intensity, sickness duration, and return to work rates were measured at 3 months and 12 months. Analyses were performed on an intention to treat basis.
Results: At 3 months, significantly more patients in the intervention group had returned to work compared with the control group. At 12 months all patients had returned to work, but sickness leave was shorter in the intervention group than in the control group. The recurrence rate was lower in the intervention group. There were no differences between the two study groups with regard to the decrease of symptoms. At baseline, symptom intensity was higher in the patients than in a normal reference population, but decreased over time in a similar manner in both groups to approximately normal levels.
Conclusion: The experimental intervention for adjustment disorders was successful in shortening sick leave duration, mainly by decreasing long term absenteeism.
PMCID: PMC1740545  PMID: 12771395
23.  Prognostic Factors for Return to Work, Sickness Benefits, and Transitions Between These States: A 4-year Follow-up After Work-Related Rehabilitation 
Purpose The aim of this study was to examine if age, gender, medical diagnosis, occupation, and previous sick leave predicted different probabilities for being at work and for registered sickness benefits, and differences in the transitions between any of these states, for individuals that had participated in an interdisciplinary work-related rehabilitation program. Methods 584 individuals on long-term sickness benefits (mean 9.3 months, SD = 3.4) were followed with official register data over a 4-year period after a rehabilitation program. 66 % were female, and mean age was 44 years (SD = 9.3). The majority had a mental (47 %) or a musculoskeletal (46 %) diagnosis. 7 % had other diagnoses. Proportional hazards regression models were used to analyze prognostic factors for the probability of being on, and the intensity of transitions between, any of the following seven states during follow-up; working, partial sick leave, full sick leave, medical rehabilitation, vocational rehabilitation, partial disability pension (DP), and full DP. Results In a fully adjusted model; women, those with diagnoses other than mental and musculoskeletal, blue-collar workers, and those with previous long-term sick leave, had a lower probability for being at work and a higher probability for full DP during follow-up. DP was also associated with high age. Mental diagnoses gave higher probability for being on full sick leave, but not for transitions to full sick leave. Regression models based on transition intensities showed that risk factors for entering a given state (work or receiving sickness benefits) were slightly different from risk factors for leaving the same state. Conclusions The probabilities for working and for receiving sickness benefits and DP were dependent on gender, diagnoses, type of work and previous history of sick leave, as expected. The use of novel statistical methods to analyze factors predicting transition intensities have improved our understanding of how the processes to and from work, and to and from sickness benefits may differ between groups. Further research is required to understand more about differences in prognosis for return to work after intensive work-related rehabilitation efforts.
PMCID: PMC4000419  PMID: 23929502
Sick leave; Disability leave; Return to work; Rehabilitation—Vocational; Risk factors
24.  Length of sick leave – Why not ask the sick-listed? Sick-listed individuals predict their length of sick leave more accurately than professionals 
BMC Public Health  2004;4:46.
The knowledge of factors accurately predicting the long lasting sick leaves is sparse, but information on medical condition is believed to be necessary to identify persons at risk. Based on the current practice, with identifying sick-listed individuals at risk of long-lasting sick leaves, the objectives of this study were to inquire the diagnostic accuracy of length of sick leaves predicted in the Norwegian National Insurance Offices, and to compare their predictions with the self-predictions of the sick-listed.
Based on medical certificates, two National Insurance medical consultants and two National Insurance officers predicted, at day 14, the length of sick leave in 993 consecutive cases of sick leave, resulting from musculoskeletal or mental disorders, in this 1-year follow-up study. Two months later they reassessed 322 cases based on extended medical certificates. Self-predictions were obtained in 152 sick-listed subjects when their sick leave passed 14 days. Diagnostic accuracy of the predictions was analysed by ROC area, sensitivity, specificity, likelihood ratio, and positive predictive value was included in the analyses of predictive validity.
The sick-listed identified sick leave lasting 12 weeks or longer with an ROC area of 80.9% (95% CI 73.7–86.8), while the corresponding estimates for medical consultants and officers had ROC areas of 55.6% (95% CI 45.6–65.6%) and 56.0% (95% CI 46.6–65.4%), respectively. The predictions of sick-listed males were significantly better than those of female subjects, and older subjects predicted somewhat better than younger subjects. Neither formal medical competence, nor additional medical information, noticeably improved the diagnostic accuracy based on medical certificates.
This study demonstrates that the accuracy of a prognosis based on medical documentation in sickness absence forms, is lower than that of one based on direct communication with the sick-listed themselves.
PMCID: PMC529266  PMID: 15476563
25.  Multidisciplinary outpatient care program for patients with chronic low back pain: design of a randomized controlled trial and cost-effectiveness study [ISRCTN28478651] 
BMC Public Health  2007;7:254.
Chronic low back pain (LBP) is a major public and occupational health problem, which is associated with very high costs. Although medical costs for chronic LBP are high, most costs are related to productivity losses due to sick leave. In general, the prognosis for return to work (RTW) is good but a minority of patients will be absent long-term from work. Research shows that work related problems are associated with an increase in seeking medical care and sick leave. Usual medical care of patients is however, not specifically aimed at RTW.
The objective is to present the design of a randomized controlled trial, i.e. the BRIDGE-study, evaluating the effectiveness in improving RTW and cost-effectiveness of a multidisciplinary outpatient care program situated in both primary and outpatient care setting compared with usual clinical medical care for patients with chronic LBP.
The design is a randomized controlled trial with an economic evaluation alongside. The study population consists of patients with chronic LBP who are completely or partially sick listed and visit an outpatient clinic of one of the participating hospitals in Amsterdam (the Netherlands). Two interventions will be compared. 1. a multidisciplinary outpatient care program consisting of a workplace intervention based on participatory ergonomics, and a graded activity program using cognitive behavioural principles. 2. usual care provided by the medical specialist, the occupational physician, the patient's general practitioner and allied health professionals. The primary outcome measure is sick leave duration until full RTW. Sick leave duration is measured monthly by self-report during one year. Data on sick leave during one-year follow-up are also requested form the employers. Secondary outcome measures are pain intensity, functional status, pain coping, patient satisfaction and quality of life. Outcome measures are assessed before randomization and 3, 6, and 12 months later. All statistical analysis will be performed according to the intension-to-treat principle.
Usual care of primary and outpatient health services isn't directly aimed at RTW, therefor it is desirable to look for care which is aimed at RTW. Research shows that several occupational interventions in primary care are aimed at RTW. They have shown a significant reduction of sick leave for employee with LBP. If a comparable reduction of sick leave duration of patients with chronic LBP of who attend an outpatient clinic can be achieved, such reductions will be obviously substantial for the Netherlands and will have a considerable impact.
Trial registration
PMCID: PMC2174473  PMID: 17883853

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