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1.  Validation of sick leave measures: self-reported sick leave and sickness benefit data from a Danish national register compared to multiple workplace-registered sick leave spells in a Danish municipality 
BMC Public Health  2012;12:661.
Previous validation studies of sick leave measures have focused on self-reports. Register-based sick leave data are considered to be valid; however methodological problems may be associated with such data. A Danish national register on sickness benefit (DREAM) has been widely used in sick leave research. On the basis of sick leave records from 3,554 and 2,311 eldercare workers in 14 different workplaces, the aim of this study was to: 1) validate registered sickness benefit data from DREAM against workplace-registered sick leave spells of at least 15 days; 2) validate self-reported sick leave days during one year against workplace-registered sick leave.
Agreement between workplace-registered sick leave and DREAM-registered sickness benefit was reported as sensitivities, specificities and positive predictive values. A receiver-operating characteristic curve and a Bland-Altman plot were used to study the concordance with sick leave duration of the first spell. By means of an analysis of agreement between self-reported and workplace-registered sick leave sensitivity and specificity was calculated. Ninety-five percent confidence intervals (95% CI) were used.
The probability that registered DREAM data on sickness benefit agrees with workplace-registered sick leave of at least 15 days was 96.7% (95% CI: 95.6-97.6). Specificity was close to 100% (95% CI: 98.3-100). The registered DREAM data on sickness benefit overestimated the duration of sick leave spells by an average of 1.4 (SD: 3.9) weeks. Separate analysis on pregnancy-related sick leave revealed a maximum sensitivity of 20% (95% CI: 4.3-48.1).
The sensitivity of self-reporting at least one or at least 56 sick leave day/s was 94.5 (95% CI: 93.4 – 95.5) % and 58.5 (95% CI: 51.1 – 65.6) % respectively. The corresponding specificities were 85.3 (95% CI: 81.4 – 88.6) % and 98.9 (95% CI: 98.3 – 99.3) %.
The DREAM register offered valid measures of sick leave spells of at least 15 days among eldercare employees. Pregnancy-related sick leave should be excluded in studies planning to use DREAM data on sickness benefit. Self-reported sick leave became more imprecise when number of absence days increased, but the sensitivity and specificity were acceptable for lengths not exceeding one week.
PMCID: PMC3511193  PMID: 22894644
Agreement; Eldercare sector; Public transfer payment; Register data; Self-report; Sensitivity; Sick leave; Specificity; Validation; Workplace record
2.  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
3.  Losing independence – the lived experience of being long-term sick-listed 
BMC Public Health  2013;13:745.
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.
PMCID: PMC3751439  PMID: 23938128
4.  Reliability of sickness certificates in detecting potential sick leave reduction by modifying working conditions: a clinical epidemiology study 
BMC Public Health  2004;4:8.
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.
PMCID: PMC400742  PMID: 15043757
5.  Personal Factors Associated with Sickness Absence: A Study of 194 Men with Contrasting Sickness Absence Experience in a Refinery Population1 
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.
PMCID: PMC1008718  PMID: 4231051
6.  The panorama of future sick-leave diagnoses among young adults initially long-term sickness absent due to neck, shoulder, or back diagnoses. An 11-year prospective cohort study 
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.
PMCID: PMC2719585
7.  Psychosocial work conditions and registered sickness absence: a 3-year prospective cohort study among office employees 
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.
PMCID: PMC2746900  PMID: 19471954
Psychosocial work conditions; Sickness absence days; Sickness absence episodes
8.  Is Thymoglobulin or Rituximab the Cause of This Serum Sickness? A Case Report of Serum Sickness Dilemma and Literature Review 
Case Reports in Medicine  2012;2012:234515.
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.
PMCID: PMC3465905  PMID: 23056053
9.  Cumulative incidence of sickness absence and disease burden among the newly sick-listed, a cross-sectional population-based study 
BMC Public Health  2013;13:329.
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.
PMCID: PMC3626677  PMID: 23575311
Sickness absence; Incidence; Chronic disease; Gender; Socio-economic status
10.  Reasons for and factors associated with issuing sickness certificates for longer periods than necessary: results from a nationwide survey of physicians 
BMC Public Health  2013;13:478.
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.
PMCID: PMC3691717  PMID: 23679866
Sick leave; Sickness certification; Insurance medicine; Physician
11.  Views on sick-listing practice among Swedish General Practitioners – a phenomenographic study 
BMC Family Practice  2007;8:44.
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.
PMCID: PMC1988796  PMID: 17663793
12.  Isolated specialist or system integrated physician – different views on sickness certification among orthopaedic surgeons: an interview study 
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.
PMCID: PMC2651137  PMID: 19105821
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.  Short-term sick leave and future risk of sickness absence and unemployment - the impact of health status 
BMC Public Health  2012;12:861.
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.
PMCID: PMC3508966  PMID: 23050983
Short-term sick leave; Health status; Future sickness absence; Unemployment; Population-based study
15.  Health care management of sickness certification tasks: results from two surveys to physicians 
BMC Research Notes  2013;6:207.
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.
PMCID: PMC3671141  PMID: 23701711
Health care management; Sickness certification practice; Sick leave; Physician
16.  Sick leave among home-care personnel: a longitudinal study of risk factors 
Sick leave due to neck, shoulder and back disorders (NSBD) is higher among health-care workers, especially nursing aides/assistant nurses, compared with employees in other occupations. More information is needed about predictors of sick leave among health care workers. The aim of the study was to assess whether self-reported factors related to health, work and leisure time could predict: 1) future certified sick leave due to any cause, in nursing aides/assistant nurses (Study group I) and 2) future self-reported sick leave due to NSBD in nursing aides/assistant nurses (Study group II).
Study group I, comprised 443 female nursing aides/assistant nurses, not on sick leave at baseline when a questionnaire was completed. Data on certified sick leave were collected after 18 months. Study group II comprised 274 of the women, who at baseline reported no sick leave during the preceding year due to NSBD and who participated at the 18 month follow-up. Data on sick leave due to NSBD were collected from the questionnaire at 18 months. The associations between future sick leave and factors related to health, work and leisure time were tested by logistic regression analyses.
Health-related factors such as previous low back disorders (OR: 1.89; 95% CI 1.20–2.97) and previous sick leave (OR 6.40; 95%CI 3.97–10.31), were associated with a higher risk of future sick leave due to any cause. Factors related to health, work and leisure time, i.e. previous low back disorders (OR: 4.45; 95% CI 1.27–15.77) previous sick leave, not due to NSBD (OR 3.30; 95%CI 1.33–8.17), high strain work (OR 2.34; 95%CI 1.05–5.23) and high perceived physical exertion in domestic work (OR 2.56; 95%CI 1.12–5.86) were associated with a higher risk of future sick leave due to NSBD. In the final analyses, previous low back disorders and previous sick leave remained significant in both study groups.
The results suggest a focus on previous low back disorders and previous sick leave for the design of early prevention programmes aiming at reducing future sick leave due to any cause, as well as due to NSBD, among nursing aides/assistant nurses. A multifactorial approach may be of importance in the early prevention of sick leave due to NSBD.
PMCID: PMC539270  PMID: 15533255
17.  How primary health care physicians make sick listing decisions: The impact of medical factors and functioning 
The decision to issue sickness certification in Sweden for a patient should be based on the physician's assessment of the reduction of the patient's work capacity due to a disease or injury, not on psychosocial factors, in spite of the fact that they are known as risk factors for sickness absence. The aim of this study was to investigate the influence of medical factors and functioning on sick listing probability.
Four hundred and seventy-four patient-physician consultations, where sick listing could be an option, in general practice in Örebro county, central Sweden, were documented using physician and patient questionnaires. Information sought was the physicians' assessments of causes and consequences of the patients' complaints, potential to recover, diagnoses and prescriptions on sick leave, and the patients' view of their family and work situation and functioning as well as data on the patients' former and present health situation. The outcome measure was whether or not a sickness certificate was issued. Multivariate analyses were performed.
Complaints entirely or mainly somatic as assessed by the physician decreased the risk of sick listing, and complaints resulting in severe limitation of occupational work capacity, as assessed by the patient as well as the physician, increased the risk of sick listing, as did appointments for locomotor complaints. The results for patients with infectious diseases or musculoskeletal diseases were partly similar to those for all diseases.
The strongest predictors for sickness certification were patient's and GP's assessment of reduced work capacity, with a striking concordance between physician and patient on this assessment. When patient's complaints were judged to be non-somatic the risk of sickness certification was enhanced.
PMCID: PMC2266928  PMID: 18208594
18.  Structured Early Consultation with the Occupational Physician Reduces Sickness Absence Among Office Workers at High Risk for Long-Term Sickness Absence: a Randomized Controlled Trial 
Objective To examine the efficacy of structured early consultation among employees at high risk for future long-term sickness absence, in the prevention and/or reduction of sickness absence. The focus of the experiment was the timing of the intervention, that is, treatment before sickness absence actually occurs. Methods In the current prospective randomized controlled trial (RCT), employees at high risk for long-term sickness absence were selected based on responses to a 34-item screening questionnaire including demographic, workplace, health and psychosocial factors associated with long-term sickness absence (>28 days). A total of 299 subjects at risk for future long-term sickness absence were randomized in an experimental group (n = 147) or in a control group (n = 152). Subjects in the experimental group received a structured early consult with their occupational physician (OP), in some cases followed by targeted intervention. The control group received care as usual. Sickness absence was assessed objectively through record linkage with the company registers on sickness absence over a 1 year follow-up period. Results Modified intention-to-treat analysis revealed substantial and statistically significant differences (p = 0.007) in total sickness absence duration over 1 year follow-up between the experimental (mean 18.98; SD 29.50) and control group (mean 31.13; SD 55.47). Per-protocol analysis additionally showed that the proportion of long-term sickness absence spells (>28 days) over 1 year follow-up was significantly (p = 0.048) lower in the experimental (9.1%) versus control group (18.3%). Conclusions Structured early consultation with the OP among employees at high risk for future long-term sickness absence is successful in reducing total sickness absence.
PMCID: PMC2668565  PMID: 18196446
Epidemiology; Occupational health intervention; Prevention; Sick leave
19.  Work and family: associations with long-term sick-listing in Swedish women – a case-control study 
BMC Public Health  2007;7:287.
The number of Swedish women who are long-term sick-listed is high, and twice as high as for men. Also the periods of sickness absence have on average been longer for women than for men. The objective of this study was to investigate the associations between factors in work- and family life and long-term sick-listing in Swedish women.
This case-control study included 283 women on long-term sick-listing ≥90 days, and 250 female referents, randomly chosen, living in five counties in Sweden. Bivariate and multivariate logistic regression analyses with odds ratios were calculated to estimate the associations between long-term sick-listing and factors related to occupational work and family life.
Long-term sick-listing in women is associated with self-reported lack of competence for work tasks (OR 2.42 1.23–11.21 log reg), workplace dissatisfaction (OR 1.89 1.14–6.62 log reg), physical workload above capacity (1.78 1.50–5.94), too high mental strain in work tasks (1.61 1.08–5.01 log reg), number of employers during work life (OR 1.39 1.35–4.03 log reg), earlier part-time work (OR 1.39 1.18–4.03 log reg), and lack of influence on working hours (OR 1.35 1.47–3.86 log reg). A younger age at first child, number of children, and main responsibility for own children was also found to be associated with long-term sick-listing. Almost all of the sick-listed women (93%) wanted to return to working life, and 54% reported they could work immediately if adjustments at work or part-time work were possible.
Factors in work and in family life could be important to consider to prevent women from being long-term sick-listed and promote their opportunities to remain in working life. Measures ought to be taken to improve their mobility in work life and control over decisions and actions regarding theirs lives.
PMCID: PMC2151941  PMID: 17931411
20.  Dealing with sickness certification – a survey of problems and strategies among general practitioners and orthopaedic surgeons 
BMC Public Health  2007;7:273.
In order to get sickness benefit a sick-listed person need a medical certificate issued by a physician; in Sweden after one week of self-certification. Physicians experience sick-listing tasks as problematic and conflicts may arise when patients regard themselves unable to work due to complaints that are hard to objectively verify for the physician. Most GPs and orthopaedic surgeons (OS) deal regularly with sick-listing issues in their daily practice. The aim of this study was to explore perceived problems and coping strategies related to tasks of sickness certification among general practitioners (GP) and orthopaedic surgeons (OS).
A cross-sectional study about sickness certification in two Swedish counties, with 673 participating GPs and 149 OSs, who answered a comprehensive questionnaire. Frequencies together with crude and adjusted (gender and working years) Odds ratios were calculated.
A majority of the GPs and OSs experienced problems in sickness certification every week. To assess the patient's work ability, to handle situations when they and the patient had different opinions about the need for sickness absence, and to issue prolongation certificates when the previous was issued by another physician were reported as problematic by a majority in both groups. Both GPs and OSs prolonged sickness certifications due to waiting times in health care or at Social Insurance Office (SIO). To handle experienced problems they used different strategies; OSs issued sickness certificates without personal appointment more often than the GPs, who on the other hand reported having contact with SIO more often than the OSs. A higher rate of GPs experienced support from management and had a common strategy for handling sickness certification at the clinic than the OSs.
Most GPs and OSs handled sickness certification weekly and reported a variety of problems in relation to this task, generally GPs to a higher extent, and they used different coping strategies to handle the problems.
PMCID: PMC2089078  PMID: 17910746
21.  Analysis of sickness absence among employees of four NHS trusts 
OBJECTIVES: To determine the value of using routinely collected sickness absence data as part of a health needs assessment of healthcare workers. METHOD: Sickness absence records of almost 12900 NHS staff for one calendar year were analysed. Three measures of absence, the absence rate, the absence frequency rate, and the mean duration of absence, were assessed for the population and comparisons made between men and women, full and part time and different occupational groups of staff. Also, the main causes of sickness absence were found. RESULTS: Almost 60% of the study population had no spells of sickness absence in the year of study and almost 20% had only one spell of sickness absence. Female staff were more likely to have experienced sickness absence than male staff. Although absence due to conditions related to pregnancy were included in the analysis, the incidence of these was not sufficient to account for the higher rates of absence among female staff. In general, full time staff had greater rates of sickness absence than part time staff. 71% of all absences were of < 1 week duration. The main known causes of sickness absence were respiratory disorders, digestive disorders, and musculoskeletal disorders. CONCLUSIONS: The transition from units managed directly from the health board to trusts with individual responsibility for personnel issues at the time of data collection resulted in variations in the quality of data available for analysis. This together with the use of "dump" codes has influenced the quality of the analysis. However, such data should be available for analysis to tailor occupational health care to the needs of the population.
PMCID: PMC1757661  PMID: 10658551
22.  Distribution of sickness absence in the European Union countries 
Methods: Sickness absence was measured by questionnaire using the Third European Survey on Working Conditions. Employees were considered to have sickness absence if they reported to be absent at least one day in the past 12 months because of an accident at work, work related problems, or by other health problems.
Results: Sickness absence percentages were lower in Southern European countries compared with Central and Northern European countries, and, in general, slightly higher in men than in women.
Conclusion: This is the first description of sickness absence in each of the 15 EU countries. Examination of the sickness absence patterning between EU countries could indicate countries where important lessons to reduce sickness absence are to be learned and diffused across the EU.
PMCID: PMC1740673  PMID: 15377774
23.  Sickness absence in hospital physicians: 2 year follow up study on determinants 
OBJECTIVES—To identify determinants of sickness absence in hospital physicians.
METHODS—The Poisson regression analyses of short (1-3 days) and long (>3 days) recorded spells of sickness absence relating to potential determinants of sickness absence were based on a 2 year follow up period and cohorts of 447 (251 male and 196 female) physicians and 466 controls (female head nurses and ward sisters).
RESULTS—There were no differences in health outcomes, self rated health status, prevalence of chronic illness, and being a case on the general health questionnaire (GHQ), between the groups but physicians took one third to a half the sick leave of controls. All the health outcomes were strongly associated with sickness absence in both groups. Of work related factors, teamwork had the greatest effect on sickness absence in physicians but not in the controls. Physicians working in poorly functioning teams were at 1.8 (95% confidence interval (95% CI) 1.3 to 3.0) times greater risk of taking long spells than physicians working in well functioning teams. Risks related to overload, heavy on call responsibility, poor job control, social circumstances outside the workplace, and health behaviours were smaller.
CONCLUSION—This is the first study of hospital physicians to show the association between recorded sickness absence and factors across various areas of life. In this occupational group, sickness absence is strongly associated with health problems, and the threshold for taking sick leave is high. Poor teamwork seems to contribute to the sickness absenteeism of hospital physicians even more than traditional psychosocial risks—such as overload and low job control. These findings may have implications for training and health promotion in hospitals.

Keywords: health care personnel; occupational health; psychosocial factors
PMCID: PMC1740149  PMID: 11351050
24.  Physical, psychosocial, and organisational factors relative to sickness absence: a study based on Sweden Post 
OBJECTIVE—To analyse incidence of sickness for women and men relative to potential aetiological factors at work—physical, psychosocial, and organisational.
METHODS—The study group comprised 1557 female and 1913 male employees of Sweden Post. Sickness absence was measured by incidence of sickness (sick leave events and person-days at risk). Information on explanatory factors was obtained by a postal questionnaire, and incidence of sickness was based on administrative files of the company.
RESULTS—Complaints about heavy lifting and monotonous movements were associated with increased risk of high incidence of sickness among both women and men. For heavy lifting, an odds ratio (OR) of 1.70 (95% confidence interval (95% CI) 1.22 to 2.39) among women, and OR 1.70 (1.20 to 2.41) among men was found. For monotonous movements the risk estimates were OR 1.42 (1.03 to 1.97) and OR 1.45 (1.08 to 1.95) for women and men, respectively. Working instead of taking sick leave when ill, was more prevalent in the group with a high incidence of sickness (OR 1.74 (1.30 to 2.33) for women, OR 1.60 (1.22 to 2.10) for men). Overtime work of more than 50 hours a year was linked with low incidence of sickness for women and men. Among women, 16% reported bullying at the workplace, which was linked with a doubled risk of high incidence of sickness (OR 1.91 (1.31 to 2.77)). For men, the strongest association was found for those reporting anxiety about reorganisation of the workplace (OR 1.93 (1.34 to 2.77)).
CONCLUSIONS—Certain physical, psychosocial, and organisational factors were important determinants of incidence of sickness, independently of each other. Some of the associations were sex specific.

Keywords: incidence of sickness; work environment; sex
PMCID: PMC1740107  PMID: 11171931
25.  Reliability of a questionnaire on sickness absence with specific attention to absence due to back pain and respiratory complaints. 
OBJECTIVE--To evaluate the performance of a questionnaire on sickness absence due to back pain and respiratory disorders with the view of using sickness absence as a measure of morbidity. METHODS--A cross sectional survey was conducted among 511 male workers aged 20-65, drawn from the personnel register of an animal feed mill. The response was 404 (79%) participants. Data on sickness absence in the six months before the survey were collected by a self administered questionnaire and by sickness absence records. Correlation between both methods was examined for prevalence, duration, and frequency of overall sickness absence, back pain absence, and absence due to respiratory complaints. RESULTS--The questions about the prevalence of sickness absence from all causes, back pain, and respiratory complaints showed a high specificity of 91%, 97%, and 98%, respectively. The sensitivities of these questions were 79%, 88%, and 13%, respectively. The survey found a moderate agreement between the questionnaire and the medical register for duration and frequency of overall sickness absence with kappa values of 0.54 and 0.50. A good agreement was found for back pain absence with kappa values of 0.65 and 0.61. Respiratory absence showed a poor agreement of 0.16 and 0.13. CONCLUSION--In epidemiological studies questionnaires might be considered a valuable source of information on overall sickness absence or absence due to back pain which lasted for at least two weeks in the past six months. Whether a questionnaire survey is a reliable source of data on sickness absence due to respiratory complaints remains to be seen.
PMCID: PMC1128405  PMID: 8563859

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