Open Access Research article

Return to work after a workplace-oriented intervention for patients on sick-leave for burnout - a prospective controlled study

Björn Karlson1*, Peter Jönsson1, Birgitta Pålsson1, Gunnel Åbjörnsson1, Birgitta Malmberg1, Britt Larsson2 and Kai Österberg1

Author Affiliations

1 Division of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Department of Laboratory Medicine, Lund University, Lund, Sweden

2 Division of Rehabilitation Medicine, Department of Clinical and Experimental Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, Linköping University, Linköping, Sweden

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BMC Public Health 2010, 10:301  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-10-301

Published: 2 June 2010



In the present study the effect of a workplace-oriented intervention for persons on long-term sick leave for clinical burnout, aimed at facilitating return to work (RTW) by job-person match through patient-supervisor communication, was evaluated. We hypothesised that the intervention group would show a more successful RTW than a control group.


In a prospective controlled study, subjects were identified by the regional social insurance office 2-6 months after the first day on sick leave. The intervention group (n = 74) was compared to a control group who had declined participation, being matched by length of sick leave (n = 74). The RTW was followed up, using sick-listing register data, until 1.5 years after the time of intervention.


There was a linear increase of RTW in the intervention group during the 1.5-year follow-up period, and 89% of subjects had returned to work to some extent at the end of the follow-up period. The increase in RTW in the control group came to a halt after six months, and only 73% had returned to work to some extent at the end of the 1.5-year follow-up.


We conclude that the present study demonstrated an improvement of long-term RTW after a workplace-oriented intervention for patients on long-term sick leave due to burnout.

Trial registration

Current Controlled Trials NCT01039168.