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      A participatory supportive return to work program for workers without an employment contract, sick-listed due to a common mental disorder: an economic evaluation alongside a randomized controlled trial

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          Mental disorders are associated with high costs for productivity loss, sickness absence and unemployment. A participatory supportive return to work (RTW) program was developed in order to improve RTW among workers without an employment contract, sick-listed due to a common mental disorder. The program contained a participatory approach, integrated care and direct placement in a competitive job. The aim of this study was to evaluate the cost-effectiveness and cost-utility of this new program, compared to usual care. In addition, its return on investment was evaluated.


          An economic evaluation was conducted alongside a 12-month randomized controlled trial. A total of 186 participants was randomly allocated to the new program ( n = 94) or to usual care ( n = 92). Effect measures were the duration until sustainable RTW in competitive employment and quality-adjusted life years (QALYs) gained. Costs included intervention costs, medical costs and absenteeism costs. Registered data of the Dutch Social Security Agency were used to assess the duration until sustainable RTW, intervention costs and absenteeism costs. QALYs and medical costs were assessed using three- or six-monthly questionnaires. Missing data were imputed using multiple imputations. Cost-effectiveness analysis and cost-utility analysis were conducted from the societal perspective. A return on investment analysis was conducted from the social insurer’s perspective. Various sensitivity analyses were performed to assess the robustness of the results.


          The new program had no significant effect on the duration until sustainable RTW and QALYs gained. Intervention costs and medical costs were significantly higher in the intervention group. From the societal perspective, the maximum probability of cost-effectiveness for duration until sustainable RTW was 0.64 at a willingness to pay of about €10 000/day, and 0.27 for QALYs gained, regardless of the willingness to pay. From the social insurer’s perspective, the probability of financial return was 0.18.


          From the societal perspective, the new program was neither cost-effective in improving sustainable RTW nor in gaining QALYs. From the social insurer’s perspective, the program did not result in a positive financial return. Therefore, the present study provided no evidence to support its implementation.

          Trial registration

          The trial was listed at the Dutch Trial Register (NTR) under NTR3563 on August 7, 2012.

          Electronic supplementary material

          The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12889-017-4079-0) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

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          Most cited references 26

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          Multiple imputation for nonresponse in surveys

           D. RUBIN,  DB Rubin,  R. Rubin (1987)
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            Prognostic Factors of Long Term Disability Due to Mental Disorders: A Systematic Review

            Introduction In the past few decades, mental health problems have increasingly contributed to sickness absence and long-term disability. However, little is known about prognostic factors of return to work (RTW) and disability of persons already on sick leave due to mental health problems. Understanding these factors may help to develop effective prevention and intervention strategies to shorten the duration of disability and facilitate RTW. Method We reviewed systematically current scientific evidence about prognostic factors for mental health related long term disability, RTW and symptom recovery. Searching PubMed, PsycINFO, Embase, Cinahl and Business Source Premier, we selected articles with a publication date from January 1990 to March 2009, describing longitudinal cohort studies with a follow-up period of at least 1 year. Participants were persons on sick leave or receiving disability benefit at baseline. We assessed the methodological quality of included studies using an established criteria list. Consistent findings in at least two high quality studies were defined as strong evidence and positive findings in one high quality study were defined as limited evidence. Results Out of 796 studies, we included seven articles, all of high methodological quality describing a range of prognostic factors, according to the ICF-model categorized as health-related, personal and external factors. We found strong evidence that older age (>50 years) is associated with continuing disability and longer time to RTW. There is limited evidence for the association of other personal factors (gender, education, history of previous sickness absence, negative recovery expectation, socio-economic status), health related (stress-related and shoulder/back pain, depression/anxiety disorder) and external i.e., job-related factors (unemployment, quality and continuity of occupational care, supervisor behavior) with disability and RTW. We found limited evidence for the association of personal/external factors (education, sole breadwinner, partial/full RTW, changing work tasks) with symptom recovery. Conclusion This systematic review identifies a number of prognostic factors, some more or less consistent with findings in related literature (mental health factors, age, history of previous sickness absence, negative recovery expectation, socio-economic status, unemployment, quality and continuity of occupational care), while other prognostic factors (gender, level of education, sole breadwinner, supervisor support) conflict with existing evidence. There is still great need for research on modifiable prognostic factors of continuing disability and RTW among benefit claimants with mental health problems. Recommendations are made as to directions and methodological quality of further research, i.e., prognostic cohort studies.
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              Intervention Characteristics that Facilitate Return to Work After Sickness Absence: A Systematic Literature Review

              Introduction In many Western countries, a vast amount of interventions exist that aim to facilitate return to work (RTW) after sickness absence. These interventions are usually focused on specific target populations such as employees with low back pain, stress-related complaints or adjustment disorders. The aim of the present study is to detect and identify characteristics of RTW interventions that generally facilitate return to work (i.e. in multiple target populations and across interventions). This type of knowledge is highly relevant to policy makers and health practitioners who want to deliver evidence based care that supports the employee’s health and participation in labour. Methods We performed a keyword search (systematic literature review) in seven databases (period: 1994–2010). In total, 23 articles were included and assessed for their methodological quality. The characteristics of the interventions were evaluated as well. Results Early interventions, initiated in the first 6 weeks of the RTW process were scarce. These were effective to support RTW though. Multidisciplinary interventions appeared effective to support RTW in multiple target groups (e.g. back pain and adjustment disorders). Time contingent interventions in which activities followed a pre-defined schedule were effective in all physical complaints studied in this review. Activating interventions such as gradual RTW were effective in physical complaints. They have not been studied for people with psychological complaints. Conclusions Early- and multidisciplinary intervention and time-contingent-, activating interventions appear most effective to support RTW.

                Author and article information

                +31204445685 ,
                BMC Public Health
                BMC Public Health
                BMC Public Health
                BioMed Central (London )
                2 February 2017
                2 February 2017
                : 17
                [1 ]ISNI 0000 0001 0686 3219, GRID grid.466632.3, Department of Public and Occupational Health, , EMGO+ Institute for Health and Care Research, VU University Medical Center, ; Van der Boechorststraat 7, Amsterdam, NL-1081 BT The Netherlands
                [2 ]ISNI 0000000404654431, GRID grid.5650.6, , Research Center for Insurance Medicine AMC-UMCG-UWV-VUmc, ; Amsterdam, The Netherlands
                [3 ]ISNI 0000 0001 0686 3219, GRID grid.466632.3, Department of Health Sciences, , EMGO+ Institute for Health and Care Research, Faculty of Earth & Life Sciences, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, ; Amsterdam, The Netherlands
                © The Author(s). 2017

                Open AccessThis article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

                Funded by: The Dutch Institute for Employee Benefit Schemes
                Research Article
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                © The Author(s) 2017


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