Life stories of people on sick leave from work because of mild mental illness, pain and fatigue

Work. 2015;53(2):285-91. doi: 10.3233/WOR-152106.


Background: Many people experience some form of mild mental illness, chronic pain and fatigue feelings that lead to long-term absences from the workplace.

Objective: The article examines narrations about developmental experiences and adult life of people in need of back to work rehabilitation.

Methods: Narrative interviews were analyzed within a qualitative content analyses design. The sample was purposive, with 16 working-age adults at rehabilitation because of mild mental illnesses, chronic pain, and fatigue feelings. Ethical approval, was obtained from The Regional Committee for Medical Research Ethics, Health Region Central Norway. Reference no.: 2010/1323.

Results: There were stories about more or less stressful childhoods. In adult life, there were turns at various ages from meaningful work engagement, to struggle in private life from long lasting strain, stressful family situations or crises.

Conclusions: Illness may develop when experiencing crises or strain over time in private situations, this in combination with expectations and requirements in working life. Not only working environments, but also the private situations, life history events, and self-esteem of individuals, should be taken into consideration in the rehabilitation program. There is a need of research on working life that support the employee's positive self-image, and on effective rehabilitation when needed.

Keywords: Mental health; chronic pain; life history; narrative; work absence.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Chronic Pain / rehabilitation*
  • Fatigue / rehabilitation*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / rehabilitation*
  • Middle Aged
  • Narration
  • Norway
  • Qualitative Research
  • Return to Work
  • Sick Leave*