Objective: Job anxiety is a severe problem in many patients with chronic mental disorders, as it usually results in specific participation problems in the workplace and long-term sick leave. The aim of this study was to explore the development of sick leave in dependence on general psychosomatic complaints and job anxiety from admission to a psychosomatic inpatient treatment until 6 months after discharge.
Method: A convenience sample of 91 patients, suffering from multiple mental disorders, filled in self-rating questionnaires on job anxiety (Job Anxiety Scale) and on general psychosomatic symptom load (Symptom Checklist-90-Revised) at the beginning, the end, and 6 months after discharge from an inpatient psychosomatic treatment. Additionally, sick leave status and employment status were assessed before and 6 months after the treatment.
Results: 15.4% of 91 patients were on sick leave before inpatient treatment and at follow-up (SS group), 20.9% were fit for work at intake and follow-up (FF group), 6.6% were fit for work initially and on sick leave later (FS group), and 57.1% on sick leave first and working at follow-up (SF group). In regard to general psychosomatic complaints, there were initially high scores on the SCL, a marked reduction during inpatient treatment, and a bouncing back to initial levels at follow-up for all 4 patient groups. SS and FS patients showed the highest scores at intake and follow-up. Concerning job anxiety, SS patients had the highest scores at all three assessments, while FF patients had significantly lower scores, with only low variation between assessments. SF patients started with comparatively high scores of job anxiety, which even increased before reentering work, but decreased in the follow-up period when they were confronted with work again. FS patients started low (like the FF patients) at intake, reduced their job anxiety further till discharge, but increased to higher scores at follow-up.
Conclusions: General psychosomatic symptom load and job anxiety show a different course during treatment and are differently related to sick leave. General psychosomatic symptom load can be understood as a measure of the degree of the chronic illness status, whereas job anxiety reflects specific additional context-related problems, i.e. problems with work. A core finding is that job anxiety is related to work avoidance, but work exposure may reduce job anxiety. This has direct consequences for putting patients on sick leave or not.
Copyright © 2012 S. Karger AG, Basel.