Article Text

Download PDFPDF
Short report
Validity of participants’ self-reported diagnosis for a work absence due to a mental health problem compared with physician-certified diagnosis for the same work absence among 709 Canadian workers
  1. Mahée Gilbert-Ouimet1,2,
  2. Xavier Trudel2,3,
  3. Karine Aubé2,
  4. Ruth Ndjaboue4,
  5. Caroline S Duchaine2,3,
  6. Caty Blanchette2,
  7. Michel Vézina5,
  8. Alain Milot6,
  9. Chantal Brisson2,3
  1. 1 Department of Health Sciences, Université du Québec à Rimouski, Rimouski, Québec, Canada
  2. 2 Population Health and Optimal Health Practices Research Unit, CHU de Québec-Université Laval Research Center, Quebec, Quebec, Canada
  3. 3 Department of Social and Preventive Medicine, Laval University, Québec, Quebec, Canada
  4. 4 Centre de Recherche sur les Soins et les Services de Première Ligne de l'Université Laval, Quebec, Quebec, Canada
  5. 5 Institut National de Santé Publique du Québec, Quebec, Quebec, Canada
  6. 6 Department of Medicine, Laval University, Quebec, Quebec, Canada
  1. Correspondence to Dr Mahée Gilbert-Ouimet, Department of Health Sciences, Université du Québec à Rimouski, Rimouski, Canada; mahee.g.ouimet{at}


Objectives This study assesses the validity of a self-reported mental health problem (MHP) diagnosis as the reason for a work absence of 5 days or more compared with a physician-certified MHP diagnosis related to the same work absence. The potential modifying effect of absence duration on validity is also examined.

Methods A total of 709 participants (1031 sickness absence episodes) were selected and interviewed. Total per cent agreement, Cohen’s kappa, sensitivity and specificity values were calculated using the physician-certified MHP diagnosis related to a given work absence as the reference standard. Stratified analyses of total agreement, sensitivity and specificity values were also examined by duration of work absence (5–20 workdays,>20 workdays).

Results Total agreement value for self-reported MHP was 90%. Cohen’s kappa value was substantial (0.74). Sensitivity was 77% and specificity was 95%. Absences of more than 20 workdays had a better sensitivity than absences of shorter duration. A high specificity was observed for both short and longer absence episodes.

Conclusion This study showed high specificity and good sensitivity of self-reported MHP diagnosis compared with physician-certified MHP diagnosis for the same work absence. Absences of longer durations had a better sensitivity.

  • epidemiology
  • sickness absence

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.


  • Contributors CaB and MV are responsible for study concept and design as well as supervising data collection. Statistical analyses were conducted by ChB, CaB. Data interpretation and manuscript drafting by MG-O, KA and CaB. The manuscript was critically reviewed and approved by all authors. MG-O had full access to all of the data in the study and takes responsibility for the integrity of the data and the accuracy of the data analysis.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Obtained.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data availability statement Data are available on reasonable request. Collaborations are welcome. Please contact MG-O ( or XT ( with any inquiries.