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The Mediating Role of Recovery Expectancies on the Relation Between Depression and Return-to-Work


Purpose Depressive symptoms have been identified as a significant risk factor for prolonged disability, however, little is known about the process by which depression impacts recovery following work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WRMDs). The primary objective of this study was to examine whether recovery expectancies mediate the relation between depression and return-to-work (RTW) status in individuals with WRMDs. Methods A sample of 109 patients with WRMDs were recruited from 1 of 6 primary care physiotherapy clinics. Participants completed measures of pain severity, depression and recovery expectancies. RTW status was assessed by telephone interview 1 year after the initial assessment. Results Consistent with previous research, more severe depressive symptoms and lower recovery expectancies were associated with a lower probability of RTW. Logistic regression analyses revealed that recovery expectancies completely mediated the relation between depression and RTW status at 1-year follow-up. Conclusion The results suggest that interventions specifically targeting recovery expectancies in individuals with WRMDs and depressive symptoms might improve RTW outcomes.

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This research was supported by funds from the Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR), and the Institut de recherche Robert-Sauvé en santé et en sécurité du travail (IRSST). The authors thank Nicole Davidson and Beatrice Garfinkiel for their assistance in data collection.

Ethical standard

This study was approved by the ethics review board of the Centre de recherche interdisciplinaire en réadaptation du Montréal métropolitain.

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Correspondence to Michael J. L. Sullivan.

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Carriere, J.S., Thibault, P. & Sullivan, M.J.L. The Mediating Role of Recovery Expectancies on the Relation Between Depression and Return-to-Work. J Occup Rehabil 25, 348–356 (2015).

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  • Return to work
  • Recovery expectancies
  • Rehabilitation
  • Depression
  • Musculoskeletal pain