Purpose: Common mental disorders (CMDs) account for a large portion of sickness absence. Even after attending return to work (RTW) interventions, many patients with a CMD remain on sick leave. To identify people at risk of long-term work disability, more needs to be known about factors that predict RTW after treatment.
Methods: This was a prospective cohort study that followed 106 former patients at an RTW outpatient clinic for CMDs for 6 months after the end of treatment. Changes in work participation and mental health status between the end of treatment and the 6-month follow-up were analysed. Changes in work participation were used to identify patients with successful RTW. Patient characteristics and end-of-treatment measures of mental health status, work ability, generalized self-efficacy and expectations of future work ability, and changes in clinical outcome measures during treatment were included in logistic regression analyses to identify predictors of RTW at the 6-month follow-up.
Results: In the final model, high occupational status and higher work ability at the end of treatment predicted successful RTW at the 6-month follow-up. Further analyses showed that if the expectancy of future work ability improved or remained positive from before to the end of treatment, this was also strongly associated with RTW at the 6-month follow-up.
Conclusions: Among patients treated for CMDs, those with a low occupational status and who report lower work ability at the end of treatment are at risk of long-term disability.
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