Return to work among employees with long-term sickness absence in eldercare: a prospective analysis of register-based outcomes

Int J Rehabil Res. 2011 Sep;34(3):249-54. doi: 10.1097/MRR.0b013e328348b171.


This study investigates whether psychosocial work characteristics and work-related psychological states predict return to work (RTW) after long-term sickness absence among eldercare staff. We followed 9947 employees in a national register on payment of sickness-absence compensation for 1 year and found that 598 employees had absence periods of 8 or more consecutive weeks. Using Cox regression analysis, these 598 employees were followed for a year after onset of sickness absence to investigate associations between baseline questionnaire data on psychosocial work characteristics and work-related psychological states on the one side and 'risk' of RTW on the other. The results showed that none of the psychosocial work characteristics, emotional demands, role conflicts, quality of leadership and influence, were significantly associated with RTW. Of the two work-related psychological states, affective organizational commitment and experience of meaning at work, the results showed that sickness-absent employees who experienced low meaning at work at baseline had a significantly reduced 'risk' of RTW when compared with employees who experienced high meaning at work. No significant associations were found for affective organizational commitment. The results imply that experience of meaning at work must be considered an important work-life resource, as it enhances the capacity of sickness-absent employees to RTW after extended sickness-absence periods.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Affect
  • Disability Evaluation
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Health Services for the Aged*
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Job Satisfaction
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motivation
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care
  • Personnel Loyalty
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Prospective Studies
  • Registries
  • Rehabilitation, Vocational / psychology*
  • Sick Leave*