Differences Over Time in the Prognostic Effect of Return to Work Self-Efficacy on a Sustained Return to Work

  • Oliver BlackEmail author
  • Malcolm R. Sim
  • Alexander Collie
  • Peter Smith


Purpose This study investigated the association between return to work self-efficacy (RTW-SE) and sustained return to work (RTW) at two different time points, over a 12-month period. The primary objective of the study was to examine if the relationship between RTW-SE and a sustained RTW changed over the RTW timeline. Methods This study used survey responses from a longitudinal cohort of n = 410 workers’ compensation claimants with either an upper-body musculoskeletal injury or a psychological injury. A path analysis tested the associations between RTW-SE and a sustained RTW at two time-points. A Wald χ2 test compared nested models to determine if the association changed over time. Results RTW-SE measured at time- point 1 (T1) was associated with a sustained RTW at time-point two (T2) (β = 0.24, P < 0.05) but no association was found between RTW-SE at T2 and a sustained RTW at time-point three (T3) (β = 0.017, n.s.). Model comparisons revealed significant differences in the associations between RTW-SE and a sustained RTW, with the relationship being stronger in the early phase of RTW compared to the latter phase (χ2 = 5.002, p = 0.03). Conclusions The results indicate that RTW-SE at 4–6 months post-injury is important for a sustained RTW 6-months later although RTW-SE at 10–12 months post-injury had a negligible association over the same duration. Further research should investigate whether these findings generalize to other populations and what factors other than RTW-SE are associated with RTW in the later stages of the RTW process.


Self efficacy Return to work Workers’ compensation Occupational injuries 



This project is funded by a Linkage Grant from the Australian Research Council (LP130100091). P. M. Smith was supported by the Discovery Early Career Researcher Award from the Australian Research Council (DE120101580). He is currently supported by a Research Chair in Gender, Work and Health from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

Oliver Black, Malcolm Sim, Alexander Collie and Peter smith declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Oliver Black
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Malcolm R. Sim
    • 1
  • Alexander Collie
    • 3
  • Peter Smith
    • 1
    • 4
    • 5
  1. 1.Monash Centre for Occupational and Environmental HealthMonash UniversityMelbourne/BurwoodAustralia
  2. 2.Department of ManagementDeakin UniversityBurwoodAustralia
  3. 3.Insurance Work and Health GroupMonash UniversityMelbourne/BurwoodAustralia
  4. 4.Institute for Work & HealthTorontoCanada
  5. 5.Dalla Lana School of Public HealthUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada

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