Background Sickness absence (SA) among healthcare workers is associated with occupational and non-occupational risk factors, and impacts not only the health of the employee but could also impact on healthcare delivery and patient health. Musculoskeletal (MSK) and mental health (MH) issues are two of the main causes of SA. While a number of risk factors have been identified in the literature, there is a lack of research on the impact of the type and mix of health conditions have on the duration of SA events.
Aim The aim of this project is to determine the differences in SA duration due to MH and MSK disorders using a bespoke database developed in a NHS Health Board.
Methods Survival analyses and Cox’s proportional hazards models were used to estimate duration SA for healthcare employees absent due to MSK and MH problems over six years. SA duration and probability of return-to-work were estimated for employees by age, gender, job and health conditions.
Results MSK and MH conditions were responsible for 27% and 6% of all SA events and accounted for 23.7% and 19.5% of all days lost. Average duration of SA over the study period was 43.5 days for MSK and 53.9 days for MH conditions. For MSK conditions, employees with low back pain returned to work the fastest (50% returned in 7 days), while employees experiencing absences due to depression took the longest (50% returned in 54 days). The most influential socio-economic variables significantly affecting return-to-work were age, gender, and job category.
Conclusions This study used a unique and rich database to explore and quantify SA duration by specific cause for MSK and MH SA events. The results of this study can be used by public health practitioners and healthcare managers for the development of tailored and targeted workplace interventions
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