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1.  Recurrence of Medically Certified Sickness Absence According to Diagnosis: A Sickness Absence Register Study 
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.
doi:10.1007/s10926-009-9226-8
PMCID: PMC2832874  PMID: 20052523
Absenteeism; Sickness absence; Epidemiology; Recurrence of sickness absence
2.  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.
Background
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.
Methods
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.
Results
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) %.
Conclusions
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.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-12-661
PMCID: PMC3511193  PMID: 22894644
Agreement; Eldercare sector; Public transfer payment; Register data; Self-report; Sensitivity; Sick leave; Specificity; Validation; Workplace record
3.  Sickness Absence in the Private Sector of Greece: Comparing Shipyard Industry and National Insurance Data 
Approximately 3% of employees are absent from work due to illness daily in Europe, while in some countries sickness absence exceeds 20 days per year. Based on a limited body of reliable studies, Greek employees in the private sector seem to be absent far less frequently (<5 days/year) compared to most of the industrialized world. The aim of this study was to estimate the levels of sickness absence in the private sector in Greece, using shipyard and national insurance data. Detailed data on absenteeism of employees in a large shipyard company during the period 1999–2006 were utilized. National data on compensated days due to sickness absence concerning all employees (around 2 million) insured by the Social Insurance Institute (IKA, the largest insurance scheme in Greece) were retrieved from the Institute’s annual statistical reports for the period 1987–2006. Sick-leave days per employee and sick-leave rate (%) were calculated, among other indicators. In the shipyard cohort, the employment time loss due to sick leave was 1%. The mean number of sick-leave days per employee in shipyards ranged between 4.6 and 8.7 and sick-leave rate (sickness absenteeism rate) varied among 2% and 3.7%. The corresponding indicators for IKA were estimated between 5 and 6.3 sick-leave days per insured employee (median 5.8), and 2.14–2.72% (median 2.49%), respectively. Short sick-leave spells (<4 days) may account at least for the 25% of the total number of sick-leave days, currently not recorded in national statistics. The level of sickness absence in the private sector in Greece was found to be higher than the suggested by previous reports and international comparative studies, but still remains one of the lowest in the industrialized world. In the 20-years national data, the results also showed a 7-year wave in sickness absence indexes (a decrease during the period 1991–1997 and an increase in 1998–2004) combined with a small yet significant decline as a general trend. These observations deserve detailed monitoring and could only partly be attributed to the compensation and unemployment rates in Greece so other possible reasons should be explored.
doi:10.3390/ijerph9041171
PMCID: PMC3366606  PMID: 22690189
sickness absence; sick leave; occupational health; social insurance; employment; compensation; shipyard; industry; Greece
4.  Gender and age differences in the recurrence of sickness absence due to common mental disorders: a longitudinal study 
BMC Public Health  2010;10:426.
Background
Common mental disorders (CMDs) are an important cause of sickness absence and long-term work disability. Although CMDs are known to have high recurrence rates, little is known about the recurrence of sickness absence due to CMDs. The aim of this study was to investigate the recurrence of sickness absence due to CMDs, including distress, adjustment disorders, depressive disorders and anxiety disorders, according to age, in male and female employees in the Netherlands.
Methods
Data on sickness absence episodes due to CMDs were obtained for 137,172 employees working in the Dutch Post and Telecommunication companies between 2001 and 2007. The incidence density (ID) and recurrence density (RD) of sickness absence due to CMDs was calculated per 1000 person-years in men and women in the age-groups of < 35 years, 35-44 years, 45-54 years, and ≥ 55 years.
Results
The ID of one episode of CMDs sickness absence was 25.0 per 1000 person-years, and the RD was 76.7 per 1000 person-years. Sickness absence due to psychiatric disorders (anxiety and depression) does not have a higher recurrence density of sickness absence due to any CMDs as compared to stress-related disorders (distress and adjustment disorders): 81.6 versus 76.0 per 1000 person-years. The ID of sickness absence due to CMDs was higher in women than in men, but the RD was similar. Recurrences were more frequent in women < 35 years and in women between 35 and 44 years of age. We observed no differences between age groups in men. Recurrences among employees with recurrent episodes occurred within 3 years in 90% of cases and the median time-to-onset of recurrence was 11 (10-13) months in men and 10 (9-12) months in women.
Conclusions
Employees who have been absent from work due to CMDs are at increased risk of recurrent sickness absence due to CMDs and should be monitored after they return to work. The RD was similar in men and in women. In women < 45 years the RD was higher than in women ≥ 45 years. In men no age differences were observed.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-10-426
PMCID: PMC2914781  PMID: 20646271
5.  Effectiveness of new legislation on partial sickness benefit on work participation: a quasi-experiment in Finland 
BMJ Open  2014;4(12):e006685.
Objectives
To examine the effect of the new legislation on partial sickness benefit on subsequent work participation of Finns with long-term sickness absence. Additionally, we investigated whether the effect differed by sex, age or diagnostic category.
Design
A register-based quasi-experimental study compared the intervention (partial sick leave) group with the comparison (full sick leave) group regarding their pre-post differences in the outcome. The preintervention and postintervention period each consisted of 365 days.
Setting
Nationwide, individual-level data on the beneficiaries of partial or full sickness benefit in 2008 were obtained from national sickness insurance, pension and earnings registers.
Participants
1738 persons in the intervention and 56 754 persons in the comparison group.
Outcome
Work participation, measured as the proportion (%) of time within 365 days when participants were gainfully employed and did not receive either partial or full ill-health-related or unemployment benefits.
Results
Although work participation declined in both groups, the decline was 5% (absolute difference-in-differences) smaller in the intervention than in the comparison group, with a minor sex difference. The beneficial effect of partial sick leave was seen especially among those aged 45–54 (5%) and 55–65 (6%) and in mental disorders (13%). When the groups were rendered more exchangeable (propensity score matching on age, sex, diagnostic category, income, occupation, insurance district, work participation, sickness absence, rehabilitation periods and unemployment, prior to intervention and their interaction terms), the effects on work participation were doubled and seen in all age groups and in other diagnostic categories than traumas.
Conclusions
The results suggest that the new legislation has potential to increase work participation of the population with long-term sickness absence in Finland. If applied in a larger scale, partial sick leave may turn out to be a useful tool in reducing withdrawal of workers from the labour market due to health reasons.
doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2014-006685
PMCID: PMC4281551  PMID: 25539780
partial sick leave; sick leave; work disability; population registers
6.  Prevention of recurrent sickness absence among employees with common mental disorders: design of a cluster-randomised controlled trial with cost-benefit and effectiveness evaluation 
BMC Public Health  2010;10:132.
Background
Common mental disorders, such as depression, anxiety disorder, and adjustment disorder, have emerged as a major public and occupational health problem in many countries. These disorders can have severe consequences such as absenteeism and work disability. Different interventions have been developed to improve the return-to-work of employees with common mental disorders, but still a large proportion of employees experiences health and work problems after their return-to-work. For this reason, the SHARP-at work intervention is developed to prevent a relapse of sickness absence among employees who have returned to work after a period of sickness absence because of common mental disorders. We aim to evaluate the effectiveness, cost-benefit and process of the intervention compared to care as usual.
Methods/Design
The study is designed as a cluster-randomised controlled trial with randomisation at the level of the occupational physician. Employees who have returned to work after a period of sickness absence because of a common mental disorder are included in the study. Employees in the intervention group will receive the SHARP-at work intervention. The intervention focusses on active guidance of employees by occupational physicians during the first weeks of work after sickness absence. Employees in the control group will receive care as usual. Outcomes will be assessed at baseline and at 3, 6, and 12 months follow-up. The primary outcome is cumulative recurrent sickness absence days. Secondary outcome measures are mental health, work functioning, and coping. Adherence to the protocol, communication between stakeholders, and satisfaction with the treatment are the process measures assessed in both study groups. Cost-benefit is calculated from a societal perspective. Finally, prognostic factors for a relapse of sickness absence are investigated.
Discussion
This study goes beyond return-to-work by focussing on the prevention of recurrent sickness absence. The study incorporates not only outcomes on sickness absence and mental health but also on health-related work functioning. The results of this study can contribute to a further development of practice guidelines and the promotion of sustainable work participation.
Trial registration
NTR1963
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-10-132
PMCID: PMC2841673  PMID: 20230606
7.  Does enhanced information exchange between social insurance physicians and occupational physicians improve patient work resumption? A controlled intervention study 
Background
Patient work resumption after sickness absence varies even among patients with similar pathologies and characteristics. Explanations remain uncertain. One newly investigated field is “information asymmetry”, a situation in which critical information is not appropriately exchanged between stakeholders in disability management. It is hypothesised that information asymmetry between social insurance physicians and occupational physicians prolongs sickness absence.
Objectives
To assess the influence of enhanced information exchange between these physicians on patient outcome.
Methods
Non‐randomised controlled intervention study. The setting was the work inability assessment consultation of social insurance physicians in Belgium. Inclusion criteria were: employee, age 18–50, and subacute (more than one month) sickness absence. The intervention was a structured information exchange (through the use of a communication form) between the patient's social insurance physician and occupational physician. The intervention started when the patient's sickness absence reached the subacute stage, and ended when the sickness absence benefit was ceased or the duration exceeded one year. The primary outcome measure was the sickness absence benefit status of the patient assessed one year after benefit onset.
Results
Of the 1883 patients asked to enrol in the study, 1564 (84%) participated; 505 (32%) of 1564 patients were assigned to the intervention group and 1059 (68%) to the control group; 1553 (99%) of 1564 patients completed the study. In the intervention group, 86% received no sickness absence benefit at the end of the study, versus 84% in the control group (95% CI 0.91–1.15). No significant differences in other outcome parameters were obtained.
Conclusions
Information exchange between physicians may not be enough to influence work resumption among patients on sickness absence. Further research on stakeholders' information asymmetry and its effect on the outcome of patients are necessary. The complexity of information asymmetry in disability management cannot be underestimated.
doi:10.1136/oem.2005.020545
PMCID: PMC2092510  PMID: 16551761
sick leave; disability; physicians
8.  Medically certified sickness absence with insurance benefits in women with and without children 
Background: Sickness absence in Sweden is high, particularly in young women and the reasons are unclear. Many Swedish women combine parenthood and work and are facing demands that may contribute to impaired health and well-being. We compared mothers and women without children under different conditions, assuming increased sickness absence in mothers, due to time-based stress and psychological strain. Methods: All women born in 1960–79 (1.2 million) were followed from 1993 to 2003. Information on children in the home for each year was related to medically certified sickness absence with insurance benefits the year after. We used age and time-stratified proportional hazard regression models accounting for the individual's changes on study variables over time. Data were retrieved from national administrative registers. Results: Sickness absence was higher in mothers than in women without children, the relative risks decreased by age, with no effect after the age of 35 years. An effect appeared in lonely women irrespective of age, while in cohabiting women only for the ages 20–25 years. Mothers showed increased sickness absence in all subgroups of country of birth, education, income, sector of employment and place of residence. The relation between number of children and sickness absence was nonlinear, with the highest relative risks for mothers of one child. The upward trend of sickness absence at the end of 1990s was steeper for mothers compared to women without children. Conclusion: Despite the well-developed social security system and child care services in Sweden, parenthood predicts increased sickness absence, particularly in young and in lone women.
doi:10.1093/eurpub/ckr028
PMCID: PMC3265750  PMID: 21450840
9.  Health problems and psychosocial work environment as predictors of long term sickness absence in employees who visited the occupational physician and/or general practitioner in relation to work: a prospective study 
Aims: To determine whether psychosocial work environment and indicators of health problems are prospectively related to incident long term sickness absence in employees who visited the occupational physician (OP) and/or general practitioner (GP) in relation to work.
Methods: The baseline measurement (May 1998) of the Maastricht Cohort Study, a prospective cohort study among 45 companies and organisations, was used to select employees at work who indicated having visited the OP and/or GP in relation to work. Self report questionnaires were used to measure indicators of health problems (presence of at least one long term disease, likeliness of having a mental illness, fatigue) and psychosocial work environment (job demands, decision latitude, social support, job satisfaction) as predictors of subsequent sickness absence. Sickness absence data regarding total numbers of sickness absence days were obtained from the companies and occupational health services during an 18 month period (between 1 July 1998 and 31 December 1999). Complete data were available from 1271 employees.
Results: After adjustment for demographics and the other predictors, presence of at least one long term disease (OR 2.36; 95% CI 1.29 to 4.29) and lower level of decision latitude (OR 1.69; 95% CI 1.22 to 2.38) were the strongest predictors for sickness absence of at least one month. A higher likelihood of having a mental illness, a higher level of fatigue, a lower level of social support at work, and low job satisfaction were also significant predictors for long term sickness absence, but their effect was less strong.
Conclusion: In detecting employees at work but at risk for long term sickness absence, OPs and GPs should take into account not only influence of the psychosocial work environment in general and level of decision latitude in particular, but also influence of indicators of health problems, especially in the form of long term diseases.
doi:10.1136/oem.60.4.295
PMCID: PMC1740517  PMID: 12660378
10.  Recurrence of sickness absence due to common mental disorders 
Purpose
Common mental disorders (CMDs) are an important cause of work disability. Although CMDs are known to have high recurrence rates, little is known about the recurrence of sickness absence due to CMDs. This study examines the recurrence risk of sickness absence due to CMDs.
Methods
A cohort of 9,904 employees with a sickness absence due to CMDs, working in the Dutch Post or Telecommunication company, was studied over a 7-year period. Recurrence was defined as the start of at least one new episode of sickness absence with CMDs after complete return to work for at least 28 days. The recurrence density (RD) of sickness absence with CMDs was calculated per 1,000 person-years.
Results
Of the 9,904 employees with a first absence due to CMDs 1,925 (19%) had a recurrence, 90% of recurrences occurred within 3 years. The RD of sickness absence due to CMDs was 84.5 employees per 1,000 person-years (95% CI = 80.7–88.3). The RD of sickness absence due to CMDs was similar in women and in men. In men, depressive symptoms were related to higher recurrence of sickness absence due to CMDs than distress symptoms and adjustment disorders. In women, no difference by diagnostic category was found.
Conclusions
Employees with a previous episode of sickness absence with CMDs are at increased risk of recurrent sickness absence with CMDs. Relapse prevention consultations are recommended for a period of 3 years after return to work.
doi:10.1007/s00420-010-0540-4
PMCID: PMC3020308  PMID: 20449605
Recurrent sickness absence; Common mental disorders; Stress-related symptoms; Depressive symptoms; Anxiety symptoms
11.  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.
doi:10.1007/s10926-007-9114-z
PMCID: PMC2668565  PMID: 18196446
Epidemiology; Occupational health intervention; Prevention; Sick leave
12.  Occupational stress and incidence of sick leave in the Belgian workforce: the Belstress study 
Context: Sick leave is a major problem in public health. The Karasek demands/control/social support/strain (JDCS) model has been largely used to predict a wide range of health outcomes and to a lesser extent sickness absence.
Study objective: The aim of the study was to test the predictive power of the JDCS model in relation with one year incidence of sick leave in a large cohort of workers.
Design and setting: Cohort study conducted between 1994 and 1998 in 25 companies across Belgium.
Participants: A total of 20 463 workers aged 35 to 59 years were followed up for sick leave during one year after the baseline survey.
Outcomes: The outcomes were a high sick leave incidence, short spells (⩾7 days), long spells (⩾28 days), and repetitive spells of sickness absence (⩾3 spells/year).
Main results: Independently from baseline confounding variables, a significant association between high strained jobs with low social support and repetitive spells of sickness absence was observed in both sexes with odds ratios of 1.32 (99% CI, 1.04 to 1.68) in men and 1.61 (99% CI, 1.13 to 2.33) in women. In men, high strained jobs with low social support was also significantly associated with high sick leave incidence, and short spells of sick leave with odds ratios of 1.38 (99% CI, 1.16 to 1.64) and 1.22 (99% CI, 1.05 to 1.44) respectively.
Conclusions: Perceived high strain at work especially combined with low social support is predictive of sick leave in both sexes of a large cohort of the Belgian workforce.
doi:10.1136/jech.2003.007518
PMCID: PMC1732779  PMID: 15143121
13.  A Cluster-Randomised Trial Evaluating an Intervention for Patients with Stress-Related Mental Disorders and Sick Leave in Primary Care 
PLoS Clinical Trials  2007;2(6):e26.
Objective:
Mental health problems often affect functioning to such an extent that they result in sick leave. The worldwide reported prevalence of mental health problems in the working population is 10%–18%. In developed countries, mental health problems are one of the main grounds for receiving disability benefits. In up to 90% of cases the cause is stress-related, and health-care utilisation is mainly restricted to primary care. The aim of this study was to assess the effectiveness of our Minimal Intervention for Stress-related mental disorders with Sick leave (MISS) in primary care, which is intended to reduce sick leave and prevent chronicity of symptoms.
Design:
Cluster-randomised controlled educational trial.
Setting:
Primary health-care practices in the Amsterdam area, The Netherlands.
Participants:
A total of 433 patients (MISS n = 227, usual care [UC] n = 206) with sick leave and self-reported elevated level of distress.
Interventions:
Forty-six primary care physicians were randomised to either receive training in the MISS or to provide UC. Eligible patients were screened by mail.
Outcome Measures:
The primary outcome measure was duration of sick leave until lasting full return to work. The secondary outcomes were levels of self-reported distress, depression, anxiety, and somatisation.
Results:
No superior effect of the MISS was found on duration of sick leave (hazard ratio 1.06, 95% confidence interval 0.87–1.29) nor on severity of self-reported symptoms.
Conclusions:
We found no evidence that the MISS is more effective than UC in our study sample of distressed patients. Continuing research should focus on the potential beneficial effects of the MISS; we need to investigate which elements of the intervention might be useful and which elements should be adjusted to make the MISS effective.
Editorial Commentary
Background: People who take sick leave from work as a result of mental health problems very often report that the cause is stress-related. Although stress-related sick leave imposes a significant burden on individuals and economies, few evidence-based therapies exist to prevent sick leave in people who are experiencing stress-related mental health problems. The researchers carrying out this study wanted to evaluate the effectiveness of an intervention for stress-related mental health disorders amongst people who had been on sick leave for less than three months. The intervention involved short training sessions for primary health-care practitioners, during which the practitioners were taught how to diagnose stress-related problems; how to provide information to patients and encourage their recovery and active return to work; and how to give advice and monitor patients' recovery. The researchers carried out a cluster-randomized trial evaluating this training program, in which 46 primary care practitioners were assigned by chance to receive either the training program or to practice usual care. Over the course of the trial, 433 patients with elevated levels of distress and sick leave were included in the study, 227 of whom were treated by practitioners receiving the training program and 206 of whom received usual care. These patients were followed up for 12 months and the primary outcome studied in the trial was the length of sick leave taken until full return to work. Secondary outcome measures included patients' reports of distress, depression, and other symptoms as recorded using specific questionnaires.
What the trial shows: In the trial, data on the primary outcome measure was available for 87% of the patients treated by practitioners receiving the training intervention and 84% of the patients receiving usual care. When these outcomes were analyzed, there was no evidence of a benefit of the training program on amount of sick leave taken. Over the course of the study, the severity of patients' self-reported symptoms fell in both groups, but there was no significant difference in symptom severity between the two groups of patients. A subgroup analysis suggested that more practitioners in the intervention group recognized patients as having stress-related mental health problems. Among the group of patients who were diagnosed as having stress-related mental health problems, those who were treated by practitioners in the intervention group seemed to return to work slightly more quickly than those in the usual care group. However, it is not easy to interpret the findings of this secondary analysis.
Strengths and limitations: Strengths of this study include the procedures for cluster randomization, in which primary care practitioners were randomized, rather than patients. This process ensures that only patients assigned to the intervention arm receive the benefits of the intervention, and avoids “contamination” between intervention and control groups. A further strength includes the blinding of researchers who were collecting data to the intervention that each practitioner had received. The findings of the study, however, are difficult to interpret. No effect of the training intervention was found on the study's primary outcome measure; it is possible that the training intervention does indeed have some benefit, but the benefit may not have been found in this particular trial because of the inclusion of patients with a very wide range of problems; in addition the practitioners may have not had the time or ability to apply what they learnt in the training program.
Contribution to the evidence: Very little evidence exists regarding the effects of training interventions for improving care of patients with stress-related mental health problems. The findings of this trial support those of another study carried out in a primary care setting, which found that training interventions do not seem to reduce length of sick leave. However, another study carried out in an occupational health-care setting, in which patients included in the trial had been recognised as having stress-related mental disorders, did find some benefit of an intervention program.
doi:10.1371/journal.pctr.0020026
PMCID: PMC1885369  PMID: 17549228
14.  Sickness absence in gender-equal companies A register study at organizational level 
BMC Public Health  2011;11:548.
Background
The differences in sickness absence between men and women in Sweden have attracted a great deal of interest nationally in the media and among policymakers over a long period. The fact that women have much higher levels of sickness absence has been explained in various ways. These explanations are contextual and one of the theories points to the lack of gender equality as an explanation. In this study, we evaluate the impact of gender equality on health at organizational level. Gender equality is measured by an index ranking companies at organizational level; health is measured as days on sickness benefit.
Methods
Gender equality was measured using the Organizational Gender Gap Index or OGGI, which is constructed on the basis of six variables accessible in Swedish official registers. Each variable corresponds to a key word illustrating the interim objectives of the "National Plan for Gender Equality", implemented by the Swedish Parliament in 2006. Health is measured by a variable, days on sickness benefit, also accessible in the same registers.
Results
We found significant associations between company gender equality and days on sickness benefit. In gender-equal companies, the risk for days on sickness benefit was 1.7 (95% CI 1.6-1.8) higher than in gender-unequal companies. The differences were greater for men than for women: OR 1.8 (95% CI 1.7-2.0) compared to OR 1.4 (95% CI 1.3-1.5).
Conclusions
Even though employees at gender-equal companies had more days on sickness benefit, the differences between men and women in this measure were smaller in gender-equal companies. Gender equality appears to alter health patterns, converging the differences between men and women.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-548
PMCID: PMC3155915  PMID: 21745375
15.  Does Postponement of First Pregnancy Increase Gender Differences in Sickness Absence? A Register Based Analysis of Norwegian Employees in 1993–2007 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(3):e93006.
Background
From 1970–2012, the average age at first delivery increased from 23.2–28.5 in Norway. Postponement of first pregnancy increases risks of medical complications both during and after pregnancy. Sickness absence during pregnancy has over the last two decades increased considerably more than in non-pregnant women. The aim of this paper is twofold: Firstly to investigate if postponement of pregnancy is related to increased sickness absence and thus contributing to the increased gender difference in sickness absence; and secondly, to estimate how much of the increased gender difference in sickness absence that can be accounted for by increased sickness absence amongst pregnant women.
Methods
We employed registry-data to analyse sickness absence among all Norwegian employees with income equivalent to full-time work in the period 1993–2007.
Results
After control for age, education, and income, pregnant women's sickness absence (age 20–44) increased on average 0.94 percentage points each year, compared to 0.29 in non-pregnant women and 0.14 in men. In pregnant women aged 20–24, sickness absence during pregnancy increased by 0.96 percent points per calendar year, compared to 0.60 in age-group 30–34. Sickness absence during pregnancy accounted for 25% of the increased gender gap in sickness absence, accounting for changes in education, income and age.
Conclusions
Postponement of first pregnancy does not explain the increase in pregnant women's sickness absence during the period 1993–2007 as both the highest level and increase in sickness absence is seen in the younger women. Reasons are poorly understood, but still important as it accounts for 25% of the increased gender gap in sickness absence.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0093006
PMCID: PMC3965515  PMID: 24667483
16.  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
17.  Increase in sickness absence with psychiatric diagnosis in Norway: a general population-based epidemiologic study of age, gender and regional distribution 
BMC Medicine  2006;4:19.
Background
The aim of this study was to assess the incidence of sickness absence with psychiatric diagnoses from 1994–2000, and the distribution across gender, age groups, diagnostic groups and regions in a general population.
Methods
The population at risk was defined as all individuals aged 16–66 years who were entitled to sickness benefits in 1994, 1996, 1998 and 2000 (n = 2,282,761 in 2000). All individuals with a full-time disability pension were excluded. The study included approximately 77% of the Norwegian population aged 16–66 years. For each year, the study base started on 1 January and ended on 31 December. Individuals that were sick-listed for more than 14/16 consecutive days with a psychiatric diagnosis on their medical certificate were selected as cases. Included in this study were data for Norway, the capital city Oslo and five regions in the southeast of the country.
Results
Sickness absence with psychiatric diagnoses increased in all age groups, in women and men, and in all regions. At the national level, the cumulative incidence increased in women from 1.7% in 1994 to 4.6% in 2000, and in men from 0.8% in 1994 to 2.2% in 2000. The highest cumulative incidence was found in middle-aged women and men (30–59 years). Women had a higher incidence than men in all stratification groups. The cumulative incidences in 2000 varied between 4.6% to 5.6% in women in the different regions, and for men the corresponding figures were 2.1% to 3.2%. Throughout the four years studied, women in Oslo had more than twice as high incidence levels of sickness absence with alcohol and drug diagnoses as the country as a whole. There were some differences between regions in sickness absence with specific psychiatric diagnoses, but they were small and most comparisons were non-significant.
Conclusion
Sickness absence with psychiatric diagnoses increased between 1994 and 2000 in Norway. The increase was highest in the middle-aged, and in women. Few regional differences were found. That the increase pervaded all stratification groups supports general explanations of the increase, such as changes in attitudes to psychiatric disorders in both patients and doctors, and increased mental distress probably associated with societal changes at a more structural level.
doi:10.1186/1741-7015-4-19
PMCID: PMC1601961  PMID: 16923198
18.  “Inclusive Working Life” in Norway – Experience from “Models of Good Practice” Enterprises 
Croatian medical journal  2008;49(4):553-560.
Aim
To determine whether enterprises belonging to the Bank of Models of Good Practice were more successful than average Norwegian enterprises in the reduction of sickness absence, promotion of early return to work, and prevention of early retirement.
Methods
In 2004 we selected 86 enterprises with a total of approximately 90 000 employees from the Inclusive Working Life (IWL) Bank of Models of Good Practice. One representative of workers and one of management from each enterprise received a questionnaire on the aims, organization, and the results of the IWL program by mail. Data on sickness absence, use of early retirement, and disability retirement in the 2000-2004 period were collected from the National Insurance Registry. Data on comparable enterprises were obtained from the National Bureau of Statistics.
Results
The response rate was 65%. Although the IWL campaign was directed at reducing sickness absence, preventing early retirement, and promoting employment of the functionally impaired, most attention was paid to reducing sickness absence. Sickness absence rate in Models of Good Practice enterprises (8.2%) was higher than in comparable enterprises that were not part of the Models of Good Practice (6.9%). Implementation of many IWL activities, empowerment and involvement of employees, and good cooperation with the occupational health service were associated with a lower rate of sickness absence. On average, 0.7% new employees per year received disability pension, which is a significantly lower percentage than expected on the basis of the rate of 1.3% per year in comparable enterprises. Frequent use of disability pensioning was associated with high rate of sickness absence and having many employees older than 50 years. On average, 0.4% employees per year received early retirement compensation, which was expected on the basis of national estimates. Frequent use of early retirement was associated with having many employees older than 50 years.
Conclusion
Models of Good Practice enterprises had a higher than expected sickness absence rate. This indicates that it is difficult to identify Models of Good Practice enterprises and that they cannot be treated as role model enterprises. Good cooperation with the occupational health service and the empowerment and involvement of the employees is associated with a low sickness absence rate.
doi:10.3325/cmj.2008.4.553
PMCID: PMC2525828  PMID: 18717003
19.  International variation in absence from work attributed to musculoskeletal illness: findings from the CUPID study 
Objectives
To quantify the variation in rates of absence due to musculoskeletal pain across 47 occupational groups (mostly nurses and office workers) from 18 countries, and to explore personal and group-level risk factors that might explain observed differences.
Methods
A standardised questionnaire was used to obtain information about musculoskeletal pain, sickness absence and possible risk factors in a cross-sectional survey of 12 416 workers (92–1017 per occupational group). Additionally, group-level data on socioeconomic variables, such as sick pay and unemployment rates, were assembled by members of the study team in each country. Associations of sickness absence with risk factors were examined by Poisson regression.
Results
Overall, there were more than 30-fold differences between occupational groups in the 12-month prevalence of prolonged musculoskeletal sickness absence, and even among office workers carrying out similar occupational tasks, the variation was more than tenfold. Personal risk factors included older age, lower educational level, tendency to somatise, physical loading at work and prolonged absence for non-musculoskeletal illness. However, these explained little of the variation between occupational groups. After adjustment for individual characteristics, prolonged musculoskeletal sickness absence was more frequent in groups with greater time pressure at work, lower job control and more adverse beliefs about the work-relatedness of musculoskeletal disorders.
Conclusions
Musculoskeletal sickness absence might be reduced by eliminating excessive time pressures in work, maximising employees’ responsibility and control and providing flexibility of duties for those with disabling symptoms. Care should be taken not to overstate work as a cause of musculoskeletal injury.
doi:10.1136/oemed-2012-101316
PMCID: PMC3710073  PMID: 23695413
international; risk factors; time pressure
20.  INTERNATIONAL VARIATION IN MUSCULOSKELETAL SICKNESS ABSENCE: FINDINGS FROM THE CUPID STUDY 
Objectives
To quantify the variation in rates of absence for musculoskeletal pain across 47 occupational groups (mostly nurses and office workers) from 18 countries, and to explore personal and group-level risk factors that might explain observed differences.
Methods
A standardised questionnaire was used to obtain information about musculoskeletal pain, sickness absence and possible risk factors in a cross-sectional survey of 12,416 workers (92 to 1017 per occupational group). In addition, group-level data on socioeconomic variables such as sick pay and unemployment rates were assembled by members of the study team in each country. Associations of sickness absence with risk factors were examined by Poisson regression.
Results
Overall, there were more than 30-fold differences between occupational groups in the 12-month prevalence of prolonged musculoskeletal sickness absence, and even among office workers carrying out similar occupational tasks, the variation was more than ten-fold. Personal risk factors included older age, lower educational level, tendency to somatise, physical loading at work and prolonged absence for non-musculoskeletal illness. However, these explained little of the variation between occupational groups. After adjustment for individual characteristics, prolonged musculoskeletal sickness absence was more frequent in groups with greater time pressure at work, lower job control, and more adverse beliefs about the work-relatedness of musculoskeletal disorders.
Conclusions
Musculoskeletal sickness absence might be reduced by eliminating excessive time pressures in work, maximising employees’ responsibility and control, and providing flexibility of duties for those with disabling symptoms. Care should be taken not to overstate work as a cause of musculoskeletal injury.
doi:10.1136/oemed-2012-101316
PMCID: PMC3710073  PMID: 23695413
Sickness absence; musculoskeletal; international; risk factors; time pressure; job control
21.  Associations between partial sickness benefit and disability pensions: initial findings of a Finnish nationwide register study 
BMC Public Health  2010;10:361.
Background
Timely return to work after longterm sickness absence and the increased use of flexible work arrangements together with partial health-related benefits are tools intended to increase participation in work life. Although partial sickness benefit and partial disability pension are used in many countries, prospective studies on their use are largely lacking. Partial sickness benefit was introduced in Finland in 2007. This register study aimed to investigate the use of health-related benefits by subjects with prolonged sickness absence, initially on either partial or full sick leave.
Methods
Representative population data (13 375 men and 16 052 women either on partial or full sick leave in 2007) were drawn from national registers and followed over an average of 18 months. The registers provided information on the study outcomes: diagnoses and days of payment for compensated sick leaves, and the occurrence of disability pension. Survival analysis and multinomial regression were carried out using sociodemographic variables and prior sickness absence as covariates.
Results
Approximately 60% of subjects on partial sick leave and 30% of those on full sick leave had at least one recurrent sick leave over the follow up. A larger proportion of those on partial sick leave (16%) compared to those on full sick leave (1%) had their first recurrent sick leave during the first month of follow up. The adjusted risks of the first recurrent sick leave were 1.8 and 1.7 for men and women, respectively, when subjects on partial sick leave were compared with those on full sick leave. There was no increased risk when those with their first recurrent sick leave in the first month were excluded from the analyses. The risks of a full disability pension were smaller and risks of a partial disability pension approximately two-fold among men and women initially on partial sick leave, compared to subjects on full sick leave.
Conclusions
This is the first follow up study of the newly adopted partial sickness benefit in Finland. The results show that compared to full sick leave, partial sick leave - when not followed by lasting return to work - is more typically followed by partial disability pension and less frequently by full disability pension. It is anticipated that the use of partial benefits in connection with part-time participation in work life will have favourable effects on future disability pension rates in Finland.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-10-361
PMCID: PMC2912806  PMID: 20573207
22.  Prognostic factors for musculoskeletal sickness absence and return to work among welders and metal workers 
OBJECTIVES: To analyse factors that determine the occurrence of sickness absence due to musculoskeletal problems and the time it takes to return to work. METHODS: A longitudinal study with two year follow up was conducted among 283 male welders and metal workers. The survey started with a standardised interview on the occurrence of musculoskeletal complaints. 61 (22%) workers were lost to follow up. Data on sickness absence among 222 workers during the follow up were collected from absence records and self reports. Regression analysis based on proportional hazards models was applied to identify risk factors for the occurrence and duration of sickness absence due to various musculoskeletal complaints. RESULTS: During the follow up 51% of the workers attributed at least one period of sickness absence to musculoskeletal complaints which accounted for 44% of all work days lost. A history of back pain was not associated with sickness absence for back pain, partly because subjects with back pain were more likely to be lost to follow up. Neck or shoulder pain and pain of the upper extremities contributed significantly to neck or shoulder absence (relative risk (RR) 3.35; 95% confidence interval (95% CI) 1.73 to 6.47) and to upper extremities absence (RR 2.29; 95% CI 1.17 to 4.46), respectively. Company and job title were also significant predictors for sickness absence due to these musculoskeletal complaints. Absence with musculoskeletal complaints was not associated with age, height, body mass index, smoking, and duration of employment. Return to work after neck or shoulder absence was worse among metal workers than welders (RR 2.12; 95% CI 1.08 to 4.17). Return to work after lower extremities absence was strongly influenced by visiting a physician (RR 11.31; 95% CI 2.94 to 43.46) and by musculoskeletal comorbidity (RR 2.81; 95% CI 1.18 to 6.73). CONCLUSIONS: Complaints of the neck or shoulder and upper extremities in the 12 months before the study were associated with sickness absence for these complaints during the follow up. Workers with absence due to pain from back, neck or shoulder, upper extremities, or lower extremities were at higher risk of subsequent sickness absence in the next year.
 
PMCID: PMC1757615  PMID: 9816384
23.  Sickness absence and concurrent low back and neck–shoulder pain: results from the MUSIC-Norrtälje study 
European Spine Journal  2006;16(5):631-638.
In Sweden, musculoskeletal disorders, in particular low back disorders (LBD) and neck–shoulder disorders (NSD) constitute by far the most common disorders, causing sick leave and early retirement. Studies that compare sickness absence in individuals with LBD and individuals with NSD are lacking. Moreover, it is likely that having concurrent complaints from the low back region and the neck–shoulder region could influence sickness absence. The purpose of the present study was to explore potential differences in sickness absence and in long-term sickness absence during a 5-year period, 1995–2001, among individuals with (1) solely LBD, (2) solely NSD, and (3) concurrent LBD and NSD. The present study was based on 817 subjects from the MUSIC-Norrtälje study, whom were working at baseline and whom at both baseline and follow-up reported LBD and/or NSD. Three groups were identified based on pain and pain-related disability at both baseline and follow-up: (1) solely LBD, (2) solely NSD, and (3) concurrent LBD and NSD. Subjects who did not give consistent answers at both the baseline and follow-up occasions were assigned a fourth group: (4) migrating LBD/NSD. Two outcomes were analysed: (1) prevalence of sickness absence, and (2) long-term sickness absence among those with sickness absence days. Logistic regression analysis was used to calculate odds ratios (OR) for sickness absence in the different disorder groups, taking into account confounding factors such as gender, age and other non-musculoskeletal-related disorders. In the group concurrent LBD and NSD, 59% had been sickness absent between baseline and follow up, compared to 42% in the group solely LBD, 41% in the group solely NSD, and 46% in the group migrating LBD/NSD. No difference in sickness absence was found between the group solely LBD compared to the group solely NSD [OR 0.65 (0.36–1.17)]. The adjusted OR for sickness absence in the group concurrent LBD and NSD compared to subjects with solely LBD or solely NSD was [OR 1.69 (1.14–2.51)]. The adjusted OR for having long-term sickness absence was 2.48 (95% CI = 1.32–4.66) for the group concurrent LBD and NSD. In the present study, having concurrent LBD and NSD were associated with a higher risk for sickness absence and also long-term sickness absence. This suggests that, when research on sickness absence and return to work after a period of LBD or NSD is performed, it is important to take into consideration any concurrent pain from the other spinal region. The study also implies that spinal co-morbidity is an important factor to be considered by clinicians and occupational health providers in planning treatment, or in prevention of these disorders.
doi:10.1007/s00586-006-0152-6
PMCID: PMC2213552  PMID: 16741741
Co-morbidity; Low back pain; Neck–shoulder pain; Pain-related disability; Sickness absence
24.  General practitioners' experiences with sickness certification: a comparison of survey data from Sweden and Norway 
BMC Family Practice  2012;13:10.
Background
In most countries with sickness insurance systems, general practitioners (GPs) play a key role in the sickness-absence process. Previous studies have indicated that GPs experience several tasks and situations related to sickness certification consultations as problematic. The fact that the organization of primary health care and social insurance systems differ between countries may influence both GPs' experiences and certification. The aim of the present study was to gain more knowledge of GPs' experiences of sickness certification, by comparing data from Sweden and Norway, regarding frequencies and aspects of sickness certification found to be problematic.
Methods
Statistical analyses of cross-sectional survey data of sickness certification by GPs in Sweden and Norway. In Sweden, all GPs were included, with 3949 (60.6%) responding. In Norway, a representative sample of GPs was included, with 221 (66.5%) responding.
Results
Most GPs reported having consultations involving sickness certification at least once a week; 95% of the GPs in Sweden and 99% of the GPs in Norway. A majority found such tasks problematic; 60% of the GPs in Sweden and 53% in Norway. In a logistic regression, having a higher frequency of sickness certification consultations was associated with a higher risk of experiencing them as problematic, in both countries. A higher rate of GPs in Sweden than in Norway reported meeting patients wanting a sickness certification without a medical reason. GPs in Sweden found it more problematic to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of sick leave with patients and to issue a prolongation of a sick-leave period initiated by another physician. GPs in Norway more often worried that patients would go to another physician if they did not issue a certificate, and a higher proportion of Norwegian GPs found it problematic to handle situations where they and their patient disagreed on the need for sick leave.
Conclusions
The study confirms that many GPs experience sickness absence consultations as problematic. However, there were differences between the two countries in GPs' experiences, which may be linked to differences in social security regulations and the organization of GP services. Possible causes and consequences of national differences should be addressed in future studies.
doi:10.1186/1471-2296-13-10
PMCID: PMC3320536  PMID: 22375615
25.  Patterns of Sickness Absence in a Railway Population 
This investigation was carried out in order to obtain morbidity statistics in a large industrial population with special reference to the effects of ageing.
The population chosen, the “railway research population,” consisted of a sample of Scottish railwaymen, drawn from five of the eight areas in the Scottish Region of British Railways. Only certain occupational grades were studied.
Information was obtained over a period of one year by means of a detailed monthly return of (a) sickness absence data and (b) job changes. Indices of sickness absence were defined. The sickness absence experience of the railway research population was compared with that of other populations. It is a healthier group than the total insured population but differs in some respects from that of London Transport.
The nature of sickness absence within the railway research population was then studied. It was shown in all but one measure used that sickness tends to increase with age, the most important factor being the increase of long episodes. Examination of the frequency distribution of the duration of sickness episodes revealed that sickness absence tends to be taken in terms of weeks off rather than days off.
Analysis of the daily variation in sickness absence showed that the total absence rate increased from Monday to Friday. There was a well defined tendency for sickness to start on Mondays, and in longer episodes an additional tendency to start on Fridays. This was interpreted in terms of morale, both positive and negative.
Marked differences of the same order of magnitude as those due to age were noted in the sickness experience of the various grades, related to both conditions of work and responsibility.
The reasons for job changes were analysed and the grades to which men were transferred were identified. The choice of suitable grades for older workers was discussed.
It was concluded that working conditions might be important factors in the type of sickness absence experienced and that comparisons with other populations might be helpful in this context. More detailed work was also called for on the psychological as well as physical aspects of the work situation for both the individual and the grade.
PMCID: PMC1037951  PMID: 13851172

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