Introduction: Poor mental health is responsible for a large percentage of long term work absence, and only 50% of those who are off work for 6 months or more return to work.
Method: We aimed to describe the factors which predict or restrict return to work for people suffering episodes of poor mental health. A literature review was conducted to identify all papers relating to long term mental illness absence.
Results: Fourteen papers of varying methodological quality considered mental health in relation to psychiatric morbidity, depression, stress, and body weight. Successful return to work is predicted by factors related to work, family history, health risk behaviours, social status, and medical condition.
Conclusions: This study identifies a range of factors which are important in preventing return to work for people with mental health conditions. The factors affecting RTW after a period of sickness absence due to poor mental health are wide ranging and in some cases studies have produced opposing results (particularly in the case of demographic factors). Further research is required to describe the factors which delay return to work for people experiencing episodes of poor mental health.