Effectiveness of an intervention to reduce sickness absence in patients with emotional distress or minor mental disorders: a randomized controlled effectiveness trial

Authors: Brown, L., Shiraga, B., & Kessler, K.
Year Published 2006
Publication General Hospital Psychiatry
Volume 28
Number 3
Pages 223-229
Publisher Elsevier

Mental health problems have an impact on well-being and quality of life and often affect functioning to such an extent that they are associated with absenteeism. In the Netherlands, about one third of the people receiving disability benefits do so because of mental health problems, the majority of which are minor mental health problems including emotional distress.


The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effectiveness of an activating intervention designed to reduce sick leave duration in patients with emotional distress or minor mental disorders.


The settings were various places where participants worked.


The sample included 194 patients with minor mental disorders.

Data Collection

Outcome measures were sick leave duration, mental health and physical health (questionnaires included the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale, the Four-Dimensional Symptom Questionnaire and SF-36), all measured at baseline at and 3, 6 and 18 months later. Multilevel analyses were used to evaluate differences between groups.


The control condition was the general practitioner's usual care.


The groups did not differ significantly on any of the outcome measures, except that the experimental group reported higher satisfaction with treatment.


Although the intervention has benefits, it was not successful at its primary goal (i.e., to reduce sick leave duration in patients with emotional distress or minor mental disorders). Programs aimed at the reduction of sick leave duration may yield better results if targeted at patients with more severe emotional problems than at those with exclusively emotional distress or minor mental disorders, or if delivered by caregivers who are closer to the work environment than are social workers, such as occupational physicians.

URL http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16675365
Disabilities Emotional disturbance
Populations Male & Female
Outcomes Return to work
Research Design Randomized Controlled Trials (RCTs)
Peer Reviewed Yes