Original article

Scand J Work Environ Health 2021;47(4):296-305    pdf full text

doi:10.5271/sjweh.3951

Impact of anxiety and depression disorders on sustained return to work after work-related musculoskeletal strain or sprain: a gender stratified cohort study

by Jones AM, Koehoorn M, Bültmann U, McLeod CB

Objective The aim of this study was to examine the impact of anxiety and depression disorders on sustained return to work (RTW) for men and women with musculoskeletal strain or sprain.

Methods Accepted lost-time claims for spine and upper-extremity strain or sprain were extracted for workers in the Canadian province of British Columbia from 2009 to 2013 (N=84 925). Pre-existing and new onset anxiety and depression disorders were identified using longitudinal health claims data. Probability of sustained RTW was analyzed using Cox proportional hazards models, stratified by gender and adjusted for potential confounders.

Results For pre-existing disorders, compared to men with no anxiety and no depression, men with anxiety only [hazard ratio (HR) 0.88, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.84–0.93], depression only (HR 0.94, 95% CI 0.89–1.00), and anxiety and depression (HR 0.93, 95% CI 0.90–0.97) had lower probabilities of sustained RTW in adjusted models. The same direction of effect was found for women, but anxiety only had a smaller effect size among women compared to men (HR anxiety only 0.95, 95% CI 0.92–0.99; HR depression only 0.98, 95% CI 0.93–1.03, HR anxiety and depression 0.94, 95% CI 0.91–0.97). Among men and women, new onset disorders were associated with lower probability of sustained RTW and the effect estimates were larger than for pre-existing disorders.

Conclusions Findings suggest that workers’ compensation benefits and programs intended to improve RTW after musculoskeletal injury should take pre-existing and new onset anxiety and depression disorders into consideration and that gender-sensitive work disability strategies may be warranted.