Objective: To evaluate the effects of a stress management intervention among 24 female patients on sick leave due to work-related psychological complaints.
Methods: The study design was quasi-experimental. All participants received a standard individual treatment for stress at a company healthcare unit. Half of the sample was also enrolled in a group intervention aimed at coping with psychological/somatic symptoms of stress. Data were collected before and after treatment and at 6- and 12-month follow-ups, through questionnaires and blood sampling. Rates of return to work were assessed for up to 5 years.
Results: Levels of depression decreased in both conditions and these improvements were maintained at follow-up. The experimental condition was superior in alleviating burnout, as measured with the Karolinska Exhaustion Scale. Paradoxically, these improvements were accompanied by significant increases in levels of glycated haemoglobin in both groups. At 5-year follow-up 40% of participants in both conditions had returned to work.
Conclusion: The stress management intervention seems to have beneficial effects on self-rated symptoms, but is comparable to treatment as usual with respect to rates of return to work. More studies are needed to investigate the impact of this intervention on physiological parameters.