Sickness Absence and Disability Pension Among Patients With Chronic Pain in Interdisciplinary Treatment or Unspecified Interventions

J Pain. 2023 Nov;24(11):2003-2013. doi: 10.1016/j.jpain.2023.06.009. Epub 2023 Jun 20.


Interdisciplinary treatment is a widely implemented strategy for the rehabilitation of patients with chronic pain. A primary treatment objective is to decrease the load on the social insurance system; however, it is questionable whether interdisciplinary treatment reduces sickness absence and disability pension (SA/DP). This register-based observational study compared SA and DP between patients in interdisciplinary treatment and unspecified interventions. With data from 7,752 Swedish specialist health care patients in their prime working age, we analyzed total net SA/DP days over 3 years from the first visit to a pain rehabilitation center. A zero-one-inflated beta model, adjusted for theoretically substantiated confounders, was used to estimate the mean differences in total days and the proportions of patients with both zero and maximum days. Compared with unspecified interventions, interdisciplinary treatment resulted in a mean (95% confidence interval) absolute increase of 50 (37, 62) total days, a 13.0% (11.3%, 14.6%) decrease in patients with zero days, and a 1.5% (.2%, 2.8%) decrease in patients with the maximum days. These findings support that interdisciplinary treatment increases SA/DP compared to less intensive interventions but reduces the risk of maximum days, implying that it is advantageous for patients with the highest absence. This highlights the need for improved patient selection procedures and the adaptation of interdisciplinary treatment programs to more adequately target SA/DP reduction. PERSPECTIVES: This study provides an accessible overview of SA/DP among working-age patients with chronic pain in Swedish specialist health care. It also shows that interdisciplinary treatment does not decrease SA/DP more than alternative treatments in most patients but is advantageous for the patients with the longest absence.

Keywords: Chronic pain; Interdisciplinary treatment; Multimodal rehabilitation; Productivity loss; Return-to-work.

Publication types

  • Observational Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Chronic Pain* / therapy
  • Disabled Persons*
  • Humans
  • Pensions
  • Risk Factors
  • Sick Leave
  • Sweden / epidemiology