Evaluating sickness absence duration by musculoskeletal and mental health issues. A retrospective cohort study of Scottish Healthcare Workers

Demou, E. , Smith, S., Bhaskar, A., Mackay, D. F. , Brown, J. , Hunt, K. , Vargas-Prada, S. and Macdonald, E. B. (2018) Evaluating sickness absence duration by musculoskeletal and mental health issues. A retrospective cohort study of Scottish Healthcare Workers. BMJ Open, 8(1), e018185. (doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2017-018085) (PMID:29374662) (PMCID:PMC5829784)

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Abstract

Objectives: Sickness absence (SA) among healthcare workers is associated with occupational and nonoccupational risk factors and impacts employee health, healthcare delivery and patient health. At the same time, healthcare is one of the employment sectors with the highest rates of work-related ill health in the UK. Musculoskeletal (MSK) and mental health (MH) issues are leading causes of SA, but there is a lack of research on how certain MSK/MH conditions impact on SA duration. The study aim is to determine differences in SA duration by MH and MSK disorders in healthcare employees. Methods: Survival analyses were used to estimate SA duration due to MSK and MH problems over 6 years, and Cox’s proportional hazards models to determine the HRs of returning to work, using a bespoke Scottish health board database with over 53 000 SA events. SA duration and time to return-to-work (RTW) were estimated for employees by age, gender, job and health conditions. Results: MSK and MH conditions accounted for 27% and 6% of all SA events and 23.7% and 19.5% of all days lost, respectively. Average SA duration was 43.5 days for MSK and 53.9 days for MH conditions. For MSK conditions, employees with low back or neck pain had the fastest RTW (median P50: 7 days), whereas employees absent due to depression took the longest (P50: 54 days). The most influential sociodemographic variables affecting RTW were age, gender and job category. Conclusions: Using a unique and rich database, we found significant differences in SA duration by presenting condition in healthcare workers. MH conditions, and depression specifically, accounted for the most working days’ absence. Significant variations in duration were also observed for MSK conditions. Our findings can inform public health practitioners and healthcare managers of the most significant factors impacting MSK-related and MHrelated SA to develop and implement tailored and targeted workplace interventions.

Item Type:Articles
Status:Published
Refereed:Yes
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Hunt, Professor Kathryn and MacDonald, Professor Ewan and Mackay, Dr Daniel and Demou, Dr Evangelia and Brown, Dr Judith and Bhaskar, Ms Abita
Authors: Demou, E., Smith, S., Bhaskar, A., Mackay, D. F., Brown, J., Hunt, K., Vargas-Prada, S., and Macdonald, E. B.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > Institute of Health and Wellbeing > MRC/CSO Unit
College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > Institute of Health and Wellbeing > Public Health
Journal Name:BMJ Open
Publisher:BMJ Publishing Group
ISSN:2044-6055
ISSN (Online):2044-6055
Published Online:26 January 2018
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2018 The Authors (or their employer(s) unless otherwise stated in the text of the article)
First Published:First published in BMJ Open 8(1):e018085
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons License

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Project CodeAward NoProject NamePrincipal InvestigatorFunder's NameFunder RefLead Dept
620221MRC SPHSU/GU Transfer FellowshipsLaurence MooreMedical Research Council (MRC)MC_PC_13027IHW - MRC/CSO SPHU
727641SPHSU Core Renewal: Setting and Health Improvement Research ProgrammeKathryn HuntMedical Research Council (MRC)MC_UU_12017/12IHW - MRC/CSO SPHU