Project: Return to work/improving work ability among employees with stress or common mental disorders

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Return to work/improving work ability among employees with stress or common mental disorders. A cluster-randomized evaluation of an intervention conducted at the occupational health services.


Common mental disorders was the leading cause of sick pay among working-age women and among men under 50 years old during the period of 2005 to 2012 in Sweden. Studies on interventions that address common mental disorders and that focus on return to work show little or no effect of commonly used methods such as medication or psychological approaches. Furthermore, these interventions often focus on the individual's symptoms without considering the work situation. In Holland, guidelines have been developed on how to facilitate return to work among employees with common mental disorders. These guidelines consider the occupational health services (OHS) an important target; the intervention in the current study will be performed at OHS.


To evaluate an intervention that addresses both individual and workplace related aspects among employees with common mental disorders. In particular, the intervention’s cost-effectiveness and impact on sick leave and health will be studied. A second aim is to assess the concerned OHS staff’s adherence to the intended intervention.


For inclusion in the study, participants need to be employed and sick-listed full- or part-time due to work-related or suspected work-related common mental disorders. OHS units will be randomized into either giving the intervention or into giving treatment as usual. The intervention is mainly based on current research on how to manage common mental disorders within OHS. The intervention comprises both the employee and the employer, and follows a clear structure comprising problem solving, stepwise activation, relapse prevention during return to work and follow-up. The primary outcome is sick leave (register data) over a 12-month follow-up period. The cost effectiveness of the intervention will be evaluated. The participants' common mental disorders will also be evaluated together with, among other things, the OHS staff’s adherence to the method.

Expected results

The intervention aims to reduce sick-leave and to increase work-related health. This would entail significant cost savings for society, decreased production loss for employers and the potential for a better quality of life for the employee.

Contact persons

Senior researcher

Gunnar Bergström

Organizational unit: Intervention and implementation research


Lotta Nybergh

Organizational unit: Intervention and implementation research

Intervention researchMental Ill-HealthOccupational health servicesRehabilitation