Return to work after COVID-19 infection - A Danish nationwide registry study

Public Health. 2022 Feb;203:116-122. doi: 10.1016/j.puhe.2021.12.012.


Objectives: This study aimed to explore return to work after COVID-19 and how disease severity affects this.

Study design: This is a Nationwide Danish registry-based cohort study using a retrospective follow-up design.

Methods: Patients with a first-time positive SARS-CoV-2 polymerase chain reaction test between 1 January 2020 and 30 May 2020, including 18-64 years old, 30-day survivors, and available to the workforce at the time of the first positive test were included. Admission types (i.e. no admission, admission to non-intensive care unit [ICU] department and admission to ICU) and return to work was investigated using Cox regression standardised to the age, sex, comorbidity and education-level distribution of all included subjects with estimates at 3 months from positive test displayed.

Results: Among the 7466 patients included in the study, 81.9% (6119/7466) and 98.4% (7344/7466) returned to work within 4 weeks and 6 months, respectively, with 1.5% (109/7466) not returning. Of the patients admitted, 72.1% (627/870) and 92.6% (805/870) returned 1 month and 6 months after admission to the hospital, with 6.6% (58/870) not returning within 6 months. Of patients admitted to the ICU, 36% (9/25) did not return within 6 months. Patients with an admission had a lower chance of return to work 3 months from positive test (relative risk [RR] 0.95, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.94-0.96), with the lowest chance in patients admitted to an ICU department (RR 0.54, 95% CI 0.35-0.72). Female sex, older age, and comorbidity were associated with a lower chance of returning to work.

Conclusion: Hospitalised patients with COVID-19 infection have a lower chance of returning to work with potential implications for postinfection follow-up and rehabilitation.

Keywords: Covid-19; Long-term COVID; Return to work; Severity; Sick leave; Workforce connection.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • COVID-19*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Denmark / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Intensive Care Units
  • Middle Aged
  • Registries
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Return to Work
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Young Adult