A Prospective Study on Self-Assessed Mental Well-Being and Work Capacity as Determinants of All-Cause Sickness Absence


Purpose The aim of the present study was to estimate whether self-assessed mental well-being and work capacity determines future sickness absence (SA). Methods A questionnaire was sent to employed individuals (n = 6,140), aged 19–64 years, who were registered as sick-listed with a new sick-leave spell in 2008. The response rate was 54 %. In this study we included individuals with a single sick-leave spell in 2008 (n = 2,502). The WHO (Ten) Well-Being Index and four dimensions of self-assessed work capacity (knowledge, mental, collaborative, physical) were used as determinants. Future sickness absence was identified through national register in 2009. Outcome was defined as no sickness benefit compensated days (no SBCD) and at least one sickness benefit compensated day (SBCD). Logistic regression analyses were used to estimate odds ratios (OR) with 95 % confidence intervals (CI) for the likelihood of SBCD. Results In 2009, 28 % of the women and 22 % of the men had SBCD; the median was 59 and 66 benefit days, respectively. Individuals with low mental well-being had higher odds for SBCD with OR 1.29 (95 % CI 1.01–1.65) in the fully adjusted model. Participants reporting low work capacity in relation to knowledge (OR 1.55, 95 % CI 1.13–2.13), collaborative (OR 1.36, 95 % CI 1.03–1.79) and physical (OR 1.50, 95 % CI 1.22–1.86) demands at work had higher odds for SBCD after adjustments for all covariates; no relation was demonstrated with mental work capacity (OR 0.99, 95 % CI 0.76–1.27). Conclusion Mental well-being and work capacity emerged as determinants of future SA. Screening in health care could facilitate early identification of persons in need of interventions to prevent future SA.

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Conflict of interest

Monica Bertilsson declares that she has no conflict of interest. Marjan Vaez declares that she has no conflict of interest. Margda Waern declares that she has no conflict of interest. Gunnar Ahlborg Jr declares that he has no conflict of interest. Gunnel Hensing declares that she is a member of the scientific advisory committee of the Swedish Social Insurance Agency (unpaid expert consultancy).

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Bertilsson, M., Vaez, M., Waern, M. et al. A Prospective Study on Self-Assessed Mental Well-Being and Work Capacity as Determinants of All-Cause Sickness Absence. J Occup Rehabil 25, 52–64 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10926-014-9518-5

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  • Mental well-being
  • Self-assessed work capacity
  • Sickness absence
  • Insurance medicine