Objectives Little is known about whether the measurement properties of health-related work functioning instruments vary when applied to injured workers with or without depressive symptoms. The objectives of this study are to examine the reliability and validity of the 16-item Work Limitations Questionnaire (WLQ-16) among injured worker’s compensation claimants and to explore whether these measurement properties vary by depressive symptom level.
Methods Data were used from the Readiness for Return to Work Cohort Study, a prospective cohort study of Ontario workers filing a Workplace Safety and Insurance Board lost-time injury claim for a musculoskeletal disorder. A total of N = 333 injured workers who had returned to work were included in the analysis. Thirty-four percent reported a high depressive symptom level (HDSL). The WLQ-16 is designed to assess limitations at work due to physical or emotional health problems or associated treatment. The 20-item Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression scale was used to measure depressive symptoms.
Results In HDSL participants, the Cronbach’s alphas were markedly lower for time management demands and physical demands when compared to participants with low depressive symptom level (LDSL). Moreover, the correlations of the WLQ-subscales with functional disability and physical health were lower or similar in HDSL participants compared to LDSL participants.
Conclusion This study provides the first evidence that measurement properties of the WLQ-16 may vary by depressive symptom level in workers who returned to work after musculoskeletal disorders. More research is needed to better understand how health-related work functioning measures perform in workers with depressive symptoms.
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