Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation

, Volume 25, Issue 3, pp 627–637 | Cite as

Early and Late Return to Work After Sick Leave: Predictors in a Cohort of Sick-Listed Individuals with Common Mental Disorders

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


Objectives The study aims to identify individual and workplace factors associated with early return to work (RTW)—defined as within 3 months—and factors associated with later RTW—between 3 and 12 months after being sick-listed—in a cohort of newly sick-listed individuals with common mental disorders. Methods In a prospective cohort study, a cross-sectional analysis was performed on baseline measures of patients granted sick leave due to common mental disorders. A total of 533 newly sick-listed individuals fulfilled the inclusion criteria and agreed to participate. A baseline questionnaire was sent by post within 3 weeks of their first day of certified medical sickness; 354 (66 %) responded. Those who were unemployed were excluded, resulting in a study population of 319 individuals. Sick leave was recorded for each individual from the Social Insurance Office during 1 year. Analyses were made with multiple Cox regression analyses. Results Early RTW was associated with lower education, better work ability at baseline, positive expectations of treatment and low perceived interactional justice with the supervisor. RTW after 3 months was associated with a need to reduce demands at work, and turnover intentions. Conclusions Early RTW among sick-listed individuals with common mental disorders seems to be associated with the individual’s need to secure her/his employment situation, whereas later RTW is associated with variables reflecting dissatisfaction with work conditions. No health measures were associated with RTW. The study highlights the importance of considering not only health and functioning, but also workplace conditions and relations at the workplace in implementing RTW interventions.


Common mental disorders Return to work Work conditions Sick leave duration 



We thank Henrik Magnusson for skilful statistical analyses. The study was supported by the Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare (FORTE), and the County Council of Ostergotland, Sweden.

Conflict of interest

Author Kerstin Ekberg declares that she has no conflict of interest. Author Charlotte Wåhlin declares that she has no conflict of interest. Author Jan Persson declares that he has no conflict of interest. Author Lars Bernfort declares that he has no conflict of interest. Author Birgitta Öberg declares that she has no conflict of interest.

Informed consent

All procedures followed were in accordance with the ethical standards of the responsible committee on human experimentation (institutional and national) and with the Helsinki Declaration of 1975, as revised in 2000. Informed consent was obtained from all patients for being included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kerstin Ekberg
    • 1
    • 2
  • Charlotte Wåhlin
    • 3
    • 4
  • Jan Persson
    • 5
  • Lars Bernfort
    • 5
  • Birgitta Öberg
    • 6
  1. 1.Department of Medicine and Health, National Centre for Work and RehabilitationLinköping UniversityLinköpingSweden
  2. 2.Helix Vinn Excellence CentreLinköping UniversityLinköpingSweden
  3. 3.Intervention and Implementation Research Unit, Institute of Environmental MedicineKarolinska InstitutetStockholmSweden
  4. 4.Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Department of Clinical and Experimental MedicineLinköping UniversityLinköpingSweden
  5. 5.Division of Health Care Analysis, Department of Medicine and HealthLinköping UniversityLinköpingSweden
  6. 6.Division of Physiotherapy, Department of Medicine and HealthLinköping UniversityLinköpingSweden

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