Health, work, and personal-related predictors of time to return to work among employees with mental health problems

Disabil Rehabil. 2012;34(15):1311-6. doi: 10.3109/09638288.2011.641664. Epub 2011 Dec 26.


Purpose: To identify health-, personal- and work-related factors predictive of return to work (RTW) in employees sick-listed due to common mental health problems, such as, stress, depression, burnout, and anxiety.

Methods: We distributed a baseline questionnaire to employees applying for sickness absence benefits at a large Danish welfare Department (n = 721). A total of 298 employees returned the questionnaire containing information on possible predictors of RTW. We followed up all baseline responders for a maximum of one year in a national registry of social transfer payments, including sickness absence benefits.

Results: At baseline, about 9% of respondents had quit their job, 10% were dismissed and the remaining 82% were still working for the same employer. The mean time to RTW, measured from the first day of absence, was 25 weeks (median = 21) and at the end of follow-up (52 weeks) 85% had returned to work. In the fitted Cox model we found that fulfilling the DSM-IV criteria for depression predicted a longer time to RTW (HR: 0.61, CI: 0.45-0.84), whereas a better self-rated health predicted a shorter time to RTW (HR: 1.18, CI: 1.03-1.34). Employees working in the municipal (HR: 0.62, CI: 0.41-0.94) and private sector (HR: 0.65, CI: 0.44-0.96) returned to work slower compared to employees working in the governmental sector. Gender, education, cohabitation, size of workplace, low-back and upper-neck pain and employment at baseline did not predict RTW.

Conclusion: Our results indicate that time to RTW is determined by both health- and work-related factors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Denmark
  • Depression / rehabilitation
  • Employment*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Forecasting
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / rehabilitation*
  • Middle Aged
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Prospective Studies
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Rehabilitation, Vocational
  • Sick Leave
  • Stress, Psychological / rehabilitation
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Time Factors
  • Work*
  • Workplace