Is Mobility in the Labor Market a Solution to Sustainable Return to Work for Some Sick Listed Persons?

  • Kerstin Ekberg
  • Charlotte Wåhlin
  • Jan Persson
  • Lars Bernfort
  • Birgitta Öberg


Aim: The study aims to identify characteristics associated with long-term expectations of professional stability or mobility among recently sick-listed workers, and to study whether expectations of professional mobility and turnover intentions were associated with duration of sick leave. Methods: A cross-sectional study was performed on baseline measures in a prospective cohort study of patients who were granted sick leave due to musculoskeletal (MSD) or mental (MD) disorders. A total of 1,375 individuals fulfilled the inclusion criteria. A baseline questionnaire was sent by mail within 3 weeks of their first day of certified medical sickness; 962 individuals responded (70%). The main diagnosis was MSD in 595 (62%) individuals and MD in 367 (38%). Results: Expectations of ability to remain in the present profession in 2 years was associated with better health and health-related resources, younger age, higher education, and better effort—reward balance. Effort-reward imbalance, MD, high burnout scores, and better educational and occupational position were associated with turnover intentions. Low expectations of ability to remain in the present profession defined two vulnerable groups with regard to RTW, those with no turnover intentions were older, had lower personal resources, more often had MSD, and slower RTW rate. Those with turnover intentions had a clear effort-reward imbalance and high burnout scores. Conclusions: The results of this explorative study underline the importance of differentiating RTW-interventions based on knowledge about the sick-listed person’s resources in relation to the labor market and the work place, and their expectations of future employment and employability.


Return to work Expectations Job stability Turnover intention Return to work Survival curves 



This study was supported by grants from the Swedish Council for Working Life and Social Research (FAS) and from the County Council of Östergötland. We thank Henrik Magnusson for statistical analyses.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kerstin Ekberg
    • 1
    • 2
  • Charlotte Wåhlin
    • 3
  • Jan Persson
    • 4
  • Lars Bernfort
    • 4
  • Birgitta Öberg
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Medicine and HealthNational Centre for Work and Rehabilitation, Linköping UniversityLinköpingSweden
  2. 2.Helix Vinn Excellence CentreLinköping UniversityLinköpingSweden
  3. 3.Division of Physiotherapy, Department of Medicine and HealthLinköping UniversityLinköpingSweden
  4. 4.Division of Health Care Analysis, Department of Medicine and HealthLinköping UniversityLinköpingSweden

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