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.
Agreement; Eldercare sector; Public transfer payment; Register data; Self-report; Sensitivity; Sick leave; Specificity; Validation; Workplace record
Sickness absence is a multifaceted problem. Much is known about risk factors for being long-term sick-listed, but there is still little known about the various aftermaths and experiences of it. The aim of this qualitative study was to describe, analyze and understand long-term sickness-absent people’s experiences of being sick-listed.
The design was descriptive and had a phenomenological approach. Sixteen long-term sickness-absent individuals were purposively sampled from three municipalities in Sweden in 2011, and data were collected through semi-structured, individual interviews. The interview questions addressed how the participants experienced being sick-listed and how the sick-listing affected their lives. Transcribed interviews were analysed using Giorgi's phenomenological method.
The interviews revealed that the participants’ experiences of being sick-listed was that they lost their independence in the process of stepping out of working society, attending the mandatory steps in the rehabilitation chain and having numerous encounters with professionals. The participants described that their life-worlds were radically changed when they became sick-listed. Their experiences of their changing life-worlds were mostly highly negative, but there were also a few positive experiences. The most conspicuous findings were the fact that stopping working brought with it so many changes, the participants’ feelings of powerlessness in the process, and their experiences of offensive treatment by and/or encounters with professionals.
Sick-listed persons experienced the process of being on long-term sickness absent as very negative. The negative experiences are linked to consequences of stopping to work, consequences of social insurance rules and to negative encounters with professionals handling the sickness absence. The positive experiences of being sick-listed were few in the present study. There is a need to further examine the extent of these negative experiences are and how they affect sick-listed people’s recovery and return to work. Long-term sickness absence; sick leave; experiences; interviews; phenomenology; Sweden.
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.
Serum sickness is an immune-complex-mediated systemic illness that can occur after treatment with monoclonal or polyclonal antibodies such as Rituxan (Rituximab) or antithymocyte globulin (Thymoglobulin), respectively. Since Rituximab is now being used as an adjuvant treatment for acute humoral rejection and its prevalence to cause serum sickness is comparable to Thymoglobulin-associated serum sickness (20% versus 27%), it should be considered a potential cause of serum sickness after rejection treatment. In kidney transplant patients, there are no case reports where patient received both Thymoglobulin and Rituximab before developing serum sickness. We are reporting a patient who developed serum sickness after receiving Thymoglobulin and Rituximab that led us to consider Rituximab as one of the potential causes in this patient's serum sickness. Since diagnosis of serum sickness is clinical, and Rituximab use has expanded into treatment of glomerulonephritis and acute humoral rejection, it should be considered as a potential offender of serum sickness in these patient populations. There are not any evidence-based guidelines or published clinical trials to help guide therapy for antibody-induced serum sickness; however, we successfully treated our case with three doses of Methylprednisone 500 mg intravenously. Further studies are needed to evaluate Rituximab-associated serum sickness in nephrology population to find effective treatment options.
Sickness absence is a public health problem with economic consequences for individuals and society. Although sickness absence and chronic diseases are correlated, few studies exist concerning the role of chronic disease in all-cause sickness absence. The aim was to assess the cumulative incidence of sickness absence and examine the accompanying burden of chronic diseases among the sick-listed.
A cross-sectional study was performed with data from 2008. Cumulative incidence of all-cause sickness absence (≥14 days) was calculated based on all newly sick-listed individuals (N = 12,543). The newly sick-listed sample and a randomized general population sample (n = 7,984) received a questionnaire (participation rates: 54% and 50%).To assess the burden of self-reported chronic diseases, standardized incidence ratios (SIR) were calculated.
Estimated one-year cumulative incidence was 11.3% (95% CI: 11.2–11.3), 14.0% (13.9–14.1) for women and 8.6% (8.5–8.6) for men. Gender differences were consistent across all age groups, with highest cumulative incidence among women aged 51–64 years, 18.2% (18.0–18.5). For women, the burden of chronic disease was significantly higher for nine out of twelve disease groups, corresponding numbers for men were nine out of eleven disease groups (standardized for age and socio-economic status). Neoplastic diseases had the highest SIR with 4.3 (3.4–5.2) for women and 4.2 (2.8–5.6) for men. For psychiatric and rheumatic diseases the respective SIR’s were 1.7 for women and 1.8 for men. The remaining disease groups had an elevated risk of 20-60% (SIR 1.2–1.6). The risk of reporting a co-morbidity was increased for women (SIR 1.4 (95% CI 1.4–1.5)) and men (SIR 1.5 (1.4–1.7)) among the sick-listed.
Register data was used to estimate of the cumulative incidence of sickness absence in the general population. A higher burden of chronic disease among the newly sick-listed was found. Targeting long-term health problems may be an important public health strategy for reducing sickness absence.
Sickness absence; Incidence; Chronic disease; Gender; Socio-economic status
Physicians’ work with sickness certifications is an understudied field. Physicians’ experience of sickness certifying for longer periods than necessary has been previous reported. However, the extent and frequency of such sickness certification is largely unknown. The aims of this study were: a) to explore the frequency of sickness certifying for longer periods than necessary among physicians working in different clinical settings; b) to examine main reasons for issuing sickness certificates for longer periods than necessary; and c) to examine factors associated with unnecessary issued sickness certificates.
In 2008, all physicians living and working in Sweden (a total of 36,898) were sent an invitation to participate in a questionnaire study concerning their sick-listing practices. A total of 22,349 (60.6%) returned the questionnaire. In the current study, physicians reporting handling sickness certification consultations at least weekly were included in the analyses, a total of 12,348.
The proportion of physicians reporting issuing sickness certificates for longer periods than actually necessary varied greatly between different types of clinics, with the highest frequency among those working at: occupational medicine, orthopedic, primary health care, and psychiatry clinics; and lowest among those working in: eye, dermatology, ear/nose/throat, oncology, surgery, and infection clinics. Logistic analyses showed that sickness certifying for longer periods than necessary due to limitations in the health care system was particularly common among physicians working at occupational medicine, orthopedic, and primary health care clinics. Sickness certifying for longer periods than necessary due to patient-related factors was much more common among physicians working at psychiatric clinics. In addition to differences between clinics, frequency of sickness certificates issued for longer periods than necessary varied by age, physicians’ experiences of different situations, and perceived problems.
This study showed that physicians issued sickness certificates for longer periods than actually necessary quite frequently at some types of clinics. Differences between clinics were to a large extent associated with frequency of problems, lack of time, delicate interactions with patients, and need for more competence.
Sick leave; Sickness certification; Insurance medicine; Physician
Medical sickness certificates are generally the main source for information when scrutinizing the need for aimed intervention strategies to avoid or reduce the individual and community side effects of sick leave. This study explored the value of medical sickness certificates related to daily work in Norwegian National Insurance Offices to identify sick-listed persons, where modified working conditions might reduce the ongoing sick leave.
The potential for reducing the ongoing sick leave by modifying working conditions was individually assessed on routine sickness certificates in 999 consecutive sick leave episodes by four Norwegian National Insurance collaborators, two with and two without formal medical competence. The study took place in Northern Norway in 1997 and 1998. Agreement analysed with differences against mean, kappa, and proportional-agreement analysis within and between groups of assessors was used in the judgement. Agreements between the assessors and the self-assessment of sick-listed subjects were additionally analysed in 159 sick-leave episodes.
Both sick-listed subjects and National Insurance collaborators anticipated a potential reduction in sick leave in 20–30% of cases, and in another 20% the potential was assessed as possible. The chance corrected agreements, however, were poor (k < 0.20) within and between groups of National Insurance collaborators. The agreement between National Insurance collaborators and the sick-listed subjects was no better than chance. Neither extended medical information nor formal medical competence increased agreement in cases where modified working conditions might have reduced sick leave.
Information in medical sickness certificates proved ineffective in detecting cases where modified working conditions may reduce sick leave, and focusing on medical certificates may prevent identification of needed interventions. Strategies on how to communicate directly with sick-listed subjects would enable social authorities to exploit more of the sick leave reduction potential by modifying the working conditions than strategies on improving medical information.
Men with different patterns of sickness absence behaviour have been identified from a refinery population by simple epidemiological techniques. A detailed clinical study is described of four groups: 56 men with five or more sickness spells in 1964 and a matched control of 56 men; 35 men who had 60 or more days of sickness absence in 1964; and finally 47 men who had not had one day off sick for at least eight years.
Whereas the men who were frequently sick tended to be younger and mostly on day work, those with long periods of sickness were reasonably representative of the whole population, and the men without any sickness absence were older and mostly on shift work. An analysis of records both before and since 1964 showed that the groups had maintained a consistent pattern of sickness absence, but when individuals were considered their behaviour was less consistent. Nevertheless there appeared to be states of sickness absence `liability' and also `resistance' which persisted for a variable length of time from a year or two up to many years.
The pre-employment medical examination proved in retrospect to have been of little predictive value. Absenteeism, lateness, and also occupational injuries were all strongly associated with sickness spells, although the level of overtime was not. Previous episodes of neurotic illness, peptic ulceration, and loss of work due to back pain were also associated with frequent sickness spells, so also were frequent colds and troublesome constipation. An unexpected finding from the physical examination was that over one quarter of those who were never sick had some organic disease.
Although neither the social nor economic circumstances differed between the groups, the attitude of the men towards themselves and their work proved to be of major importance. A memory of an unhappy childhood was more common in both groups with a lot of sickness absence, whilst dislike of the job or frustrated ambition was common in men with frequent spells. Those who were never sick denied all such problems as they denied illness. Personality testing revealed that extroversion was more marked in the frequently sick group, neuroticism in the long sick, and introversion in the never sick.
The validity and significance of the results are discussed and suggestions are made for further investigation.
Little is known about future sick-leave diagnoses among individuals on long-term sickness absence. The aim of this study was to describe the panorama of sick-leave diagnoses over time among young adults initially sick-listed for ≥ 28 days due to back, neck, or shoulder diagnoses
An 11-year prospective population-based cohort study including all 213 individuals in a Swedish municipality who, in 1985, were aged 25–34 years and had a new sick-leave spell ≥ 28 days due to neck, shoulder, or back diagnoses.
Over the 11-year period, the young adults in this cohort had 176,825 sick-leave days in 7,878 sick-leave periods (in 4,610 sick-leave spells) due to disorders in 17 of the 18 ICD-8 diagnostic categories (International Classification of Diseases, Revision 8). Musculoskeletal or mental diagnoses accounted for most of the sick-leave days, whereas most of the sick-leave periods were due to musculoskeletal, respiratory, or infectious disorders, or to unclassified symptoms. Most cohort members had had four to eight different sick-leave diagnoses over the 11 years, although some had had up to 11 diagnoses. Only two individuals (1%) had been sickness absent solely due to musculoskeletal diagnoses.
Although the young adults initially were sick listed with back, neck, or shoulder diagnoses, their sickness absence during the follow up were due to a wide variety of other medical diagnoses. It might be that the ill-health content of sickness absence due to back pain is greater than usually assumed. More research on prognoses of sick-leave diagnoses among long-term sick listed is warranted.
To investigate associations between a wide variety of psychosocial work conditions and sickness absence in a medium-sized company.
Prospective cohort study of 395 employees working in an insurance office. Self-reported psychosocial work conditions were measured by questionnaire in January 2002 and linked to registered sickness absence in the period January 2002 to December 2004 adjusting for earlier sick leave and psychological distress.
The questionnaires of 244 employees were eligible for analysis. Decision authority and co-worker support were associated with sickness absence days, but their associations with sickness absence episodes were not significant. Role clarity was associated with the number of sickness absence days, but only with the number of short sickness absence episodes in women.
The wide variety of investigated psychosocial work conditions contributed little to the explanation of sickness absence in the medium-sized insurance office.
Psychosocial work conditions; Sickness absence days; Sickness absence episodes
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.
In previous studies the authors have found sick leave to be a predictor of future sick leave, unemployment and disability pension. Although sick leave reflects underlying health problems, some studies have suggested that sick leave may have consequences beyond the consequences of the underlying illness. However, few studies have aimed at studying consequences of sick leave while adjusting for ill health. This study aims to explore whether short-term sick leave increases the risk of future long-term sick leave, disability pension, and unemployment. Furthermore, we aim to control for the potentially confounding effects of physical and mental health status.
Data were gathered from the Stockholm Public Health Cohort (SPHC), restricted to 11,156 employed individuals (48.6% men) aged 18–59, without long-term sick leave, disability pension or in-patient care the year before inclusion (2002). These were followed-up with regard to unemployment, long-term sick leave, and disability pension in 2006 and 2007.
Odds ratios (OR) with corresponding 95% confidence intervals (CI) were estimated by logistic regression, controlling for six different measures of health status (limiting long-standing illness, self-rated health, mental health, somatic disease, musculoskeletal pain and in-patient care) and socio-demographic factors.
Results from the unadjusted analyses indicated increased risks of long-term sick leave (OR 2.00; CI 1.62-2.46) and short-term unemployment (OR 1.76; CI 1.35-2.29) for individuals exposed to more than one short-term sick-leave spell. There were no increased odds of long-term unemployment (OR 0.54; CI 0.28-1.04) or disability pension (OR 0.72; CI 0.42-1.24). After adjusting for the different measures of health status the odds ratio for short-term unemployment was not statistically significant (OR 1.29; CI 0.97-1.74). The odds ratios for the other outcomes slightly increased after adjustment for the used measures of health status.
The results support the assumption that short-term sick leave may have consequences for future sick leave beyond the effect of ill health. The results point to the importance of paying attention to short-term sick leave in order to prevent subsequent sickness absence.
Short-term sick leave; Health status; Future sickness absence; Unemployment; Population-based study
Health care in general and physicians in particular, play an important role in patients’ sickness certification processes. However, a lack of management within health care regarding how sickness certification is carried out has been identified in Sweden. A variety of interventions to increase the quality of sickness certification were introduced by the government and County Councils. Some of these measures were specifically aimed at strengthening health care management of sickness certification; e.g. policy making and management support. The aim was to describe to what extent physicians in different medical specialties had access to a joint policy regarding sickness certification in their clinical settings and experienced management support in carrying out sickness certification.
A descriptive study, based on data from two cross-sectional questionnaires sent to all physicians in the Stockholm County regarding their sickness certification practice. Criteria for inclusion in this study were working in a clinical setting, being a board-certified specialist, <65 years of age, and having sickness certification consultations at least a few times a year. These criteria were met by 2497 physicians in 2004 and 2204 physicians in 2008. Proportions were calculated regarding access to policy and management support, stratified according to medical specialty.
The proportions of physicians working in clinical settings with a well-established policy regarding sickness certification were generally low both in 2004 and 2008, but varied greatly between different types of medical specialties (from 6.1% to 46.9%). Also, reports of access to substantial management support regarding sickness certification varied greatly between medical specialties (from 10.5% to 48.8%). More than one third of the physicians reported having no such management support.
Most physicians did not work in a clinical setting with a well-established policy on sickness certification tasks, nor did they experience substantial support from their manager. The results indicate a need of strengthening health care management of sickness certification tasks in order to better support physicians in these tasks.
Health care management; Sickness certification practice; Sick leave; Physician
The number of people on sick-leave started to increase in Sweden and several other European countries towards the end of the 20th century. Physicians play an important role in the sickness insurance system by acting as gate-keepers. Our aim was to explore how General Practitioners (GPs) view their sick-listing commission and sick-listing practice.
Semi-structured interviews with 19 GPs in 17 Primary Health Care settings in four mid-Sweden counties. Interview transcripts were analysed with phenomenographic approach aiming to uncover the variation in existing views regarding the respondents' sick-listing commission and practice.
We found large qualitative differences in the GPs' views on sick-listing. The sick-listing commission was experienced to come either from society or from patients, with no responsibility for societal interests, or as an integration of these two views. All the GPs were aware of a possible conflict between the interests of society and patients. While some expressed feelings of strong conflict, others seemed to have solved the conflict, at least partly, between these two loyalties.
Some GPs experienced carrying the full responsibility to decide whether a patient would get monetary sick-leave benefits or not and they were not comfortable with this situation. Views on the physician's and the patient's responsibility in sick-listing and rehabilitation varied from a passive to an empowering role of the physician.
GPs expressing a combination of less inclusive views of the different aspects of sick-listing experienced strong conflict and appeared to feel distressed in their sick-listing role. Some GPs described how they had changed from less to more inclusive views.
The clearer understanding of the different views on sick-listing generated in this study can be used in educational efforts to improve physicians' sick-listing practices, benefiting GPs' work situation as well as their patients' well-being. The GP's role as a gatekeeper in the social security system needs further exploration. Our findings could be used to develop a questionnaire to measure the distribution of different views in a wider population of GPs.
Sickness certification is a frequent and sometimes problematic task for orthopaedic surgeons.
Our aim was to explore how orthopaedic surgeons view their sick-listing commission and sick-listing practice.
Semi-structured interviews with seventeen orthopaedic surgeons from five orthopaedic clinics in four Swedish counties. The focus was on the experiences of these physicians in relation to handling of sickness certification. Phenomenographic analysis was performed to reveal differences in existing views.
The orthopaedic surgeons' views on sick-listing seemed mainly to be a consequence of how they perceived their role in the healthcare system. Three categories were found: The "isolated specialists", whose work and responsibilities were confined to the orthopaedic clinic, and did not really include sickness certification; the "orthopaedic advisers", who saw themselves mainly as advice-givers in the general health care system and perceived sickness certification as part of their job; the "system-integrated physicians", who perceived the orthopaedic clinic as one part of the healthcare system and whose ultimate goal was to get the patient well functioning in her life again with regained work ability, seeing sick-listing as one of the instruments to achieve this. Some informants described difficulties in handling conflicting opinions with patients in relation to the need for sick-leave.
Orthopaedic surgeons certify a large proportion of total sickness benefits. Some orthopaedic surgeons may certify sickness benefits sub-optimally for patients and society due to a narrow view of their role in the health care system or due to poor skills in handling discordant opinions with the patient. This problem can be addressed at the level of the individual physician and at the system level.
The objective of the present study was to develop a short prediction questionnaire for estimating the risk of no return to work (RTW) within 3 months of sick leave to facilitate triage and management of a patient population of subacute low-back pain (LBP) sufferers. We conducted a prospective study with a 3-month follow-up on 186 patients with LBP introducing a claim for sickness benefits to the largest sickness fund in Belgium. Patients completed a screening questionnaire within 2 weeks after claim submission. All patients were invited for clinical assessment, at 6–8 weeks of sick leave, by the medical adviser. Patients’ work status was recorded by the sickness fund. About 20% of the patients did not resume work at 3 months’ sick leave. They were more likely to experience pain below the knee, to have an own previous prediction of a 100% no RTW and to have a severe interference of pain on daily activities. The screening tool based on these three items correctly classified 73.7% of the non-resumers and 78.4% of the resumers at a cut-off score of 0.22. The findings of this study provide evidence of the utility of a short screening questionnaire for future use in intervention studies in a social security setting.
Low back pain; Return to work; Screening; Predictors; Outcomes
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.
Sickness absence is a problem in many Western countries. Physicians have an essential role in sickness certification of patients, which is often recommended in health care but may have side effects. Despite the potentially harming impact of sickness absence, physicians have very limited training in insurance medicine, and there is little research on sickness certification practices. Our aim was to ascertain what knowledge and skills physicians in different clinical settings feel they need in order to improve their competence in sickness certification.
The data for analysis were collected in 2004 in Stockholm and Östergötland Counties, Sweden, by use of a comprehensive questionnaire about sickness certification issues, which was sent to 7,665 physicians aged ≤ 64 years. The response rate was 71% (n = 5455). Analyses of association and factor analysis were applied to the various aspects of competence to establish a skills index and a knowledge index, which were used to compare the results for physicians in different clinical settings.
Most physicians stated they needed more knowledge and skills in handling sickness certification, e.g. regarding how to assess work capacity (44%) and optimal length and degree of sickness absence (50%), and information about aspects of the social insurance system (43-63%). Few (20%) reported needing to know more about issuing sickness certificates. The index scores varied substantially between different clinical settings, and this disparity remained after adjustment for sex, years in practice, workplace policy, and support from management. Scores on the skills index were significantly higher for physicians in primary care than for those working in other areas.
A majority of physicians in most types of clinics/practices, not only primary care, indicated the need for more knowledge and skills in handling sickness certification cases. Increased knowledge and skills are needed in order to protect both the health and equity of patients. However, few physicians stated that they needed more skills in filling out sickness certificates, which contradicts previous findings about such documents being of poor quality and suggests that factors other than mere knowledge and skills are involved.
Introduction Sickness absence is a major public health problem. Research on sickness absence focuses on interventions aimed at expediting return to work. However, we need to know more about sustaining employees at work after return to work. Therefore, this study investigated the recurrence of sickness absence according to diagnosis. Methods We analyzed the registered sickness absence data of 137,172 employees working for the Dutch Post and Telecom. Episodes of sickness absence were medically certified, according to the ICD-10 classification of diseases, by an occupational physician. The incidence density (ID) and recurrence density (RD) of medically certified absences were calculated per 1,000 person-years in each ICD-10 category. Results Sickness absence due to musculoskeletal disorders had the highest recurrence (RD = 118.7 per 1,000 person-years), followed by recurrence of sickness absence due to mental disorders (RD = 80.4 per 1,000 person-years). The median time to recurrent sickness absence due to musculoskeletal disorders was 409 days after the index episode. Recurrences of sickness absence due to musculoskeletal disorders accounted for 37% of the total number of recurrent sickness absence days. For recurrences of sickness absence due to mental disorders this was 328 days and 21%, respectively. Unskilled employees with a short duration (<5 years) of employment had a higher risk of recurrent sickness absence. Conclusions Interventions to expedite return to work of employees sick-listed due to musculoskeletal or mental disorders should also aim at reducing recurrence of sickness absence in order to sustain employees at work.
Absenteeism; Sickness absence; Epidemiology; Recurrence of sickness absence
To examine the fraction of long‐term sickness absence periods attributable to physical and psychosocial work environmental risk factors.
A random population sample was followed for 18 months in a national register of social transfer payments. Mutually adjusted hazard ratios for onset of long‐term sickness absence and aetiological fractions were computed.
After mutual adjustment, no significant effect of psychosocial work environment factors remained. In men, 23% and 28% of long‐term sickness absence were attributable to working mainly standing or squatting, and lifting or carrying loads, respectively. In women, 27% of long‐term sickness absence was attributable to bending or twisting of the neck or back.
Physical work environment exposures explained between 10% and 30% of long‐term sickness absence. The potential for reducing long‐term sickness absence is substantial.
There is growing interest in tackling the perceived ‘sick note’ culture in the UK.
The aim of this paper was to report the rates of sickness certification in a UK population, using sick certification rates as a precursor to addressing fitness for work.
Electronic records from all 14 practices included in the Keele GP Research Network were reviewed; all sickness certification records from 2005 were retrieved and corresponding consultation records were examined. Participants were 148 176 patients registered during 2005, including 6398 patients who received at least one sickness certificate during the same year.
The rate of sickness certification was 101.67 certificates per 1000 person years (95% confidence interval [CI] = 100.13 to 103.21). This rate was significantly higher in women, at 109.76 certificates per 1000 person years (95% CI = 107.550 to 112.02), compared to men who had a rate of 93.68 certificates per 1000 person years (95% CI = 91.59 to 95.78; P<0.001). The rate of sickness certification was greatest for mental health conditions, followed closely by musculoskeletal conditions.
On average, one in 10 patients will receive a sickness certificate each year, with the highest rates occurring around 50 years of age, in women. Mental health and musculoskeletal conditions were associated with the highest rates of certification. These results provide important information to underpin the national ‘Fit for Work’ scheme, by providing targets for intervention and a benchmark against which the impact of public health initiatives to reduce certified sickness absence due to health conditions can be evaluated and monitored.
epidemiology; general practice; primary care; sickness certification
A limited number of attempts have been made to develop a questionnaire that assesses the experience of motion sickness. Further, many available questionnaires quantify motion sickness as a unidimensional construct
Exploratory and confirmatory factor analyses of motion sickness descriptors were used to derive and verify four dimensions of motion sickness, which were defined as gastrointestinal, central, peripheral, and sopite-related. These dimensions of motion sickness were then used to construct a motion sickness assessment questionnaire (MSAQ) that was administered to individuals who were exposed to a rotating optokinetic drum.
Total scores from the MSAQ correlated strongly with overall scores from the Pensacola Diagnostic index (r = 0.81, p < 0.001) and the Nausea Profile (r = 0.92, p < 0.001).
The MSAQ is a valid instrument for the assessment of motion sickness. In addition, the MSAQ may be used to assess motion sickness as a multidimensional rather than unidimensional construct
factor analysis; motion sickness; questionnaire
How physicians handle sickness-certification is essential in the sickness-absence process. Few studies have focused this task of physicians' daily work. Most previous studies have only included general practitioners. However, a previous study indicated that this is a common task also among other physicians. The aim of this study was to gain detailed knowledge about physicians' work with sickness-certification and of the problems they experience in this work.
A comprehensive questionnaire regarding sickness-certification practice was sent home to all physicians living and working in Sweden (N = 36,898; response rate: 61%). This study included physicians aged <65 years who had sickness-certification consultations at least a few times a year (n = 14,210). Descriptive statistics were calculated and odds ratios (OR) with 95 % confidence intervals (CI) were estimated for having different types of related problems, stratified on clinical settings, using physicians working in internal medicine as reference group.
Sickness-certification consultations were frequent; 67% of all physicians had such, and of those, 83% had that at least once a week. The proportion who had such consultations >5 times a week varied between clinical settings; from 3% in dermatology to 79% in orthopaedics; and was 43% in primary health care. The OR for finding sickness-certification tasks problematic was highest among the physicians working in primary health care (OR 3.3; CI 2.9-3.7) and rheumatology clinics (OR 2.6; CI 1.9-3.5). About 60% found it problematic to assess patients' work capacity and to provide a prognosis regarding the duration of work incapacity.
So far, most interventions regarding physicians' sickness-certification practices have been targeted towards primary health care and general practitioners. Our results indicate that the ORs for finding these tasks problematic were highest in primary health care. Nevertheless, physicians in some other clinical settings more often have such consultations and many of them also find these tasks problematic, e.g. in rheumatology, neurology, psychiatry, and orthopaedic clinics. Thus, the results indicate that much can be gained through focusing on physicians in other types of clinics as well, when planning interventions to improve sickness-certification practice.
Sickness absence has represented a growing public health problem in many Western countries over the last decade. In Sweden disorders of the musculoskeletal system cause approximately one third of all sick leave. The Social Insurance Agency (SIA) and the health care system are important actors in handling the sickness absence process. The objective was to study how patients with personal experience of sickness absence due to musculoskeletal disorders perceived their contact with these actors and what they considered as obstructing or facilitating factors for recovery and return to work in this situation.
In-depth interviews using open-ended questions were conducted with fifteen informants (aged 33-63, 11 women), all with experience of sickness absence due to musculoskeletal disorders and purposefully recruited to represent various backgrounds as regards diagnosis, length of sick leave and return to work. The interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed verbatim and analysed using content analysis.
The informants' perceived the interaction with the SIA and health care as ranging from coherent to fragmented. Being on sick leave was described as going through a process of adjustment in both private and working life. This process of adjustment was interactive and included not only the possibilities to adjust work demands and living conditions but also personal and emotional adjustment. The informants' experiences of fragmented interaction reflected a sense that their entire situation was not being taken into account. Coherent interaction was described as facilitating recovery and return to work, while fragmented interaction was described as obstructing this. The complex division of responsibilities within the Swedish rehabilitation system may hamper sickness absentees' possibilities of taking responsibility for their own rehabilitation.
This study shows that people on sick leave considered the interaction with the SIA and health care as an important part of the rehabilitation process. The contact with these actors was perceived as affecting recovery and return to work. Working for a more coherent process of rehabilitation and offering professional guidance to patients on sick leave might have an empowering effect.
Sickness absence increases with lower socioeconomic status. However, it is not well known how this relation depends on specific aspects of sickness absence or the degree to which socioeconomic differences in sickness absence may be explained by other factors.
The purpose of the study was to examine differences in sickness absence among occupational groups in a large general hospital; how they depend on combinations of frequency and duration of sickness absence spells; and if they could be explained by self-reported general health, personal factors and work factors.
The design is a 1-year prospective cohort study of 2331 hospital employees. Baseline information include job title, work unit, perceived general health, work factors and personal factors recorded from hospital administrative files or by questionnaire (response rate 84%). Sickness absence during follow-up was divided into short (1-3 days), medium (4-14 days) and long (>14 days) spells, and into no absence, "normal" absence (1-3 absences of certain durations) and "abnormal" absence (any other absence than "normal"). Socioeconomic status was assessed by job titles grouped in six occupational groups by level of education (from doctors to cleaners/porters). Effects of occupational group on sickness absence were adjusted for significant effects of age, gender, general health, personal factors and work factors. We used Poisson or logistic regression analysis to estimate the effects of model covariates (rate ratios (RR) or odds ratios (OR)) and their 95% confidence intervals (CI).
With a few exceptions sickness absence increased with decreasing socioeconomic status. However, the social gradient was quite different for different types of sickness absence. The gradient was strong for medium spells and "abnormal" absence, and weak for all spells, short spells, long spells and "normal" absence. For cleaners compared to doctors the adjusted risk estimates increased 4.2 (95% CI 2.8-6.2) and 7.4 (95% CI 3.3-16) times for medium spells and "abnormal" absence, respectively, while the similar changes varied from 0.79 to 2.8 for the other absence outcomes. General health explained some of the social gradient. Work factors and personal factors did not.
The social gradient in sickness absence was different for absences of different duration and patterns. It was strongest for absences of medium length and "abnormal" absence. The social gradient was not explained by other factors.