Sick leave and work disability in primary care patients with recent-onset multiple medically unexplained symptoms and persistent somatoform disorders: a 10-year follow-up of the FIP study

Gen Hosp Psychiatry. 2015 Jan-Feb;37(1):53-9. doi: 10.1016/j.genhosppsych.2014.10.007. Epub 2014 Oct 22.


Objective: The objective was to explore patient characteristics and 10-year outcome of sick leave and work disability for patients with recent-onset multiple medically unexplained symptoms (MUS) and persistent somatoform disorders (SD).

Method: Consecutive patients consulting their family physician (FP) completed a preconsultation questionnaire on symptoms and mental illness (n=1785). The main problem was categorized by the FP after the consultation, and a stratified subsample was examined using a standardized diagnostic interview (n=701). Patients were grouped into three cohorts: recent onset of multiple MUS (n=84); Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, persistent SD (n=183); and reference group with well-defined physical disease according to FP (n=833). Register data on sick leave and disability pension were obtained.

Results: At index consultation, disability pension was received by 8.3% (n=7) in the recent-onset multiple MUS group, 19.1% (n=35) in the SD group and 3.5% (n=29) in the reference group. Both the recent-onset multiple MUS group [hazard ratio (HR)=2.28, 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.14-4.55] and the SD group (HR=3.26, 95% CI:1.93-5.51) had increased risk of new disability pension awards. Furthermore, the SD group had increased risk of sick leave.

Conclusions: Both recent-onset and persistent MUS have significant long-term impact on patient functioning in regard to working life; this calls for early recognition and adequate management of MUS in primary care.

Keywords: Classification; Medically unexplained symptoms; Primary health care; Sick leave; Somatoform disorders.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Insurance, Disability / statistics & numerical data*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Primary Health Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Scandinavian and Nordic Countries / epidemiology
  • Sick Leave / statistics & numerical data*
  • Somatoform Disorders / economics
  • Somatoform Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Time Factors
  • Work Capacity Evaluation