Open Access Open Badges Research article

Can we enhance the ability to return to work among workers with stress-related disorders?

Flemming Lander1*, Claus Friche1, Helle Tornemand1, Johan Hviid Andersen1 and Lilli Kirkeskov2

  • * Corresponding author: Flemming Lander

  • † Equal contributors

Author Affiliations

1 Dept of Occupational Medicine, Regional Hospital Herning, Herning, Denmark

2 Clinic of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Bispebjerg University Hospital, Copenhagen NV, Denmark

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BMC Public Health 2009, 9:372  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-9-372

Published: 5 October 2009



Stress-related disorders are widespread and responsible for high societal costs e.g. sick leave payment and reduced productivity. The aim of this study was to evaluate the effect of an intervention program on return to work or labour market.


In a controlled interventional study design we compared 72 emotionally distressed patients, who received support during 2006, with 89 control individuals who had also been sick listed for emotional distress. Intervention was provided by trained psychologists and social workers who were in continuous dialog with the patients, providing counselling e.g. on decisions concerning resumption of work, support to families, participation in meetings with the workplace. Basically, the controls and the intervention group share the same access to welfare benefits. The main outcome was time to return to labour market (TTR).


The baseline characteristics were similar in the two groups. There were no differences in the rate of resuming work between the two groups. About 80% in both groups had returned to the labour market after one year.


An intervention program with psychological stress management and case management did not improve work capability compared to usual care. Work resumption as a single outcome probably is an insensitive parameter of intervention management quality, and should be supplemented by other data on different aspects of treatment.