Objective: To analyse the influence of long-term sick leave on patients' life situation.
Design and subjects: Cross-sectional study based on 1350 individuals with a consecutive sick leave period of 12-18 months. Half were still on sick leave, half were no longer sick-listed.
Methods: A total of 862 participants answered a postal questionnaire including 24 questions on consequences of their sick leave on daily life. Results were analysed by gender, age and type of sick leave diagnosis. Associations between consequences and return to work were analysed by multiple logistic regression.
Results and conclusion: Negative effects of long-term sick leave were particularly related to leisure activities, sleep and psychological well-being. A reduced alcohol intake was more prevalent than increased consumption. Among individuals with psychiatric diagnoses the consequences were polarized, with few persons unaffected, while the effects were more unipolar and negative in other diagnostic groups. Women experienced positive consequences more often than men, attributed to relationships with children and partner, sleep and psychological well-being. Improved sleep was associated with return to work, particularly among older individuals. Negative consequences on life situation are far more common than positive consequences among patients on long-term sick leave. Benefits as well as adverse effects differ depending on diagnosis, age and gender.