A systematic review of studies identifying predictors of poor return to work outcomes following workplace injury

Work. 2015 Jun 5;51(2):373-81. doi: 10.3233/WOR-141980.


Background: Injuries occurring in the workplace can have serious implications for the health of the individual, the productivity of the employer and the overall economic community.

Objective: The objective of this paper is to increase the current state of understanding of individual demographic and psychosocial characteristics associated with extended absenteeism from the workforce due to a workplace injury.

Methods: Studies included in this systematic literature review tracked participants' return to work status over a minimum of three months, identified either demographic, psychosocial or general injury predictors of poor return to work outcomes and included a heterogeneous sample of workplace injuries.

Results: Identified predictors of poor return to work outcomes included older age, female gender, divorced marital status, two or more dependent family members, lower education levels, employment variables associated with reduced labour market desirability, severity or sensitive injury locations, negative attitudes and outcome perceptions of the participant.

Conclusions: There is a need for clear and consistent definition and measurement of return to work outcomes and a holistic theoretical model integrating injury, psychosocial and demographic predictors of return to work. Through greater understanding of the nature of factors affecting return to work, improved outcomes could be achieved.

Keywords: Systematic review; injury outcome; occupational rehabilitation; predictors of return to work; return to work; workplace injury.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Absenteeism*
  • Age Factors
  • Attitude
  • Educational Status
  • Family Characteristics
  • Humans
  • Marital Status
  • Occupational Injuries / rehabilitation*
  • Return to Work*
  • Sex Factors
  • Trauma Severity Indices