Social Theory & Health

, Volume 13, Issue 2, pp 162–179 | Cite as

Diagnosis at work – On sick leave in Sweden

  • Lena Eriksson
Original Article


The article explores how understandings of patients with symptom diagnoses, notably fibromyalgia, are shaped by the introduction of a new medical decision-making support tool used to assess patients’ ’work capacity’, together with a revision of the Swedish social insurance. Findings from two recently concluded empirical studies are used to demonstrate how notions of ’the social’ are mobilised to undercut patients’ claims to medical legitimacy and right to sick benefits. Interviews with medical professionals, civil servants and social insurance case officers indicate that fibromyalgia patients’ clinical narratives should demonstrate ordered social circumstances if their symptoms are to be categorised as belonging to a ’medical’ sphere and thus fall within the remit of the social insurance. The main determinant in this categorisation was if patients were thought to be capable of functioning in a workplace. The workplace as constituted through the interviews was a site that removed patients from the perilous domain of ’social circumstances’ and placed them in an arena in which their symptoms, while still unsignified, could be understood as affecting ’work capacity’.


fibromyalgia sociology of diagnosis sick leave work capacity contested illnesses 


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Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lena Eriksson
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyLinguistics and Theory of Science, University of GothenburgGothenburgSweden

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