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Involving the employer to enhance return to work among patients with stress-related mental disorders - study protocol of a cluster randomized controlled trial in Swedish primary health care

Journal article
Authors Lisa Björk
K. Glise
Anders Pousette
Monica Bertilsson
Kristina Holmgren
Published in Bmc Public Health
Volume 18
ISSN 1471-2458
Publication year 2018
Published at Institute of Medicine, School of Public Health and Community Medicine
Department of Sociology and Work Science
Department of Psychology
Language en
Keywords Return to work, Common mental disorders, Stress, Coordination, Intervention, sick leave, interventions, workplace, questionnaire, metaanalysis, individuals, readiness, burnout, women, risk, Public, Environmental & Occupational Health
Subject categories Environmental Health and Occupational Health


Background: Work-related stress has become a major challenge for social security and health care systems, employers and employees across Europe. In Sweden, sickness absence particularly due to stress-related disorders has increased excessively in recent years, and the issue of how to improve sustainable return to work in affected employees is high up on the political agenda. The literature on interventions for return to work in patients with common mental disorders is still inconclusive. This randomized controlled trial (RCT) aims to contribute with knowledge about how physicians and rehabilitation coordinators in primary health care can involve the employer in the rehabilitation of patients with stress-related disorders. The objective is to evaluate whether the early involvement of the patient's employer can reduce the time for return to work compared to treatment as usual. A process study will complete the RCT with information about what prerequisites primary health caregivers need to succeed with this endeavor. Methods: Twenty-two primary care centers were randomized to either intervention or control group. At the intervention centers, physicians and rehabilitation coordinators underwent training, providing them with both knowledge and practical tools to involve the employer in rehabilitation. At the patient level, employed patients with an ICD-10 F43 diagnosis were eligible for participation (n=132). Difference in proportion of patients on full- or part-time sick leave at three, six and 12 months after inclusion will be investigated. Register data, logbooks and interviews with coordinators and physicians at both intervention and control centers will be used for process evaluation. Discussion: Although the issue of how to tackle work-related stress can be recognized all across Europe, Sweden face an urgent need to curb the disproportional increase of stress-related disorders in the sick-leave statistics. Since physicians are limited by time constraints, the rehabilitation coordinator may be a helpful resource to take this contact. The current study will contribute to knowledge about how this collaboration can be organized to facilitate employer involvement and reduce time to return to work among patients suffering from work related stress.

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