Original article

Scand J Work Environ Health 2018;44(2):147-155    pdf full text


Identifying return-to-work trajectories using sequence analysis in a cohort of workers with work-related musculoskeletal disorders

by McLeod CB, Reiff E, Maas E, Bültmann U

Objectives This study aimed to identify return-to-work (RTW) trajectories among workers with work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) and examine the associations between different MSD and these RTW trajectories.

Methods We used administrative workers’ compensation data to identify accepted MSD lost-time claims with an injury date between 2010–2012 in British Columbia, Canada. Cox regression analyses were used to investigate differences in time to RTW between MSD. Validated day-to-day calendar measures of four RTW states (sickness absence, modified RTW, RTW, and non-RTW) were grouped into RTW trajectories spanning a one-year period using sequence analysis. RTW trajectories were clustered using decision rules that identified a shared trajectory structure. Poisson regression with robust standard errors was used to estimate relative risk ratios (RR) with 95% confidence intervals (CI) between MSD and RTW trajectory clusters.

Results In a cohort of 81 062 claims, 2132 unique RTW trajectories were identified and clustered into nine RTW trajectory clusters. Half of the workers sustainably returned to work within one month. Workers with back strains were most likely to have trajectories characterized by early sustained RTW, while workers with fractures or dislocations were more likely to have prolonged sickness absence trajectories (RR 4.9–9.9) or non-RTW trajectories (RR 1.4–7.6).

Conclusion This is the first study that has characterized different types of RTW trajectories of workers with MSD using sequence analysis. The application of sequence analysis and the identification of RTW trajectories yielded a number of key insights not found using conventional cox regression analysis.

This article refers to the following texts of the Journal: 2010;36(4):332-338  2012;38(6):516-526
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