Objective: The aim was to discern common characteristics in the sick-listing cases that physicians in general practice and occupational health services find problematic.
Design: Descriptive categorization within a narrative theoretical framework.
Setting: Sickness-insurance course for physicians in general practice and occupational health services.
Subjects: A total of 195 case reports written by 195 physicians. Main outcome measures. Categories of features regarding medical, work, and social situation as well as medical interventions.
Results: Beside age and sex, the following information was often provided: family situation, stressful life events, occupation, problem at work, considerations concerning diagnoses, medical investigations, treatments, and vocational rehabilitation measures. Two-thirds of the patients had been sickness absent for more than a year. The most common type of case reports concerned women, employed in non-qualified nursing occupations, and sick listed due to mental disorders. The most common measures taken by the physicians were referrals to psychotherapy and/or physiotherapy, and prescribing antidepressants (SSRI). Facts about alcohol habits were rarely provided in the cases.
Conclusions: Some of the circumstances, such as prolonged sick-listing, are likely to be more or less inevitable in problematic sick-listing cases. Other circumstances, such as stress-full life events, more closely reflect what the reporting physicians find problematic. The categories identified can be regarded as markers of problematic sick-listing cases in general practice and occupational health service.