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New Ways – Mental Health at Work

Research group

Short description

Mental health problems such as depression and anxiety are common among the working population. Both Swedish and international researchers has found that individuals with mental health problems are at a greater risk of becoming sick listed compared to individuals with other diagnoses, and patients are often absent for long time periods. New Ways research program aims to increase the scientific knowledge how to identify, treat and support individuals with depression and anxiety, to enable their capacity for work and decrease the need for sick leave.

Research areas

New Ways researchprogram is divided into three main areas. The first one has a focus on health literacy within the general population. The second category has a focus on early identification, support and treatment within the Swedish primary care, and the third category has a focus on early identification and increased knowledge in a working life context.

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Ongoing research projects

Managers’ knowledge about depression and anxiety and how they support employees with decreased work capacity due common mental disorders (CMD) is a missing piece of understanding in the field of mental health at work. In this project we investigate managers’ attitudes, knowledge, measures and strategies while supporting subordinates with CMD. In 2017 we sent a web-survey including such questions to 5556 managers. Studies are published and on-going. In a qualitative study with eight focus groups in 2019, we also interviewed managers about their experience-based understanding of how work capacity is affected in employees with CMD. They also discussed their practices while supporting these employees. Analyses are on-going, manuscripts will be submitted in 2021.

Researchers:
Agneta Blomberg
Monica Bertilsson, project manager
Gunnel Hensing

This PhD project aims at evaluating the effects of interventions in the Swedish primary health care with the focus on identification and treatment of common mental disorders.

The project consists of two parts. The first part is a randomised controlled trial with the aim to evaluate the use of a screening tool (Work Stress Questionnaire ‘WSQ’) in the primary health care. The screening tool WSQ is developed to early identify persons with work-related stress. Sub-study 1 aims at evaluate whether physician’s use of the WSQ in the primary health care affects further health care use among the participants and if there are any differences in health care treatment among participants that received the intervention compared to controls.

In the second part of the PhD project, we evaluate the implementation of care managers in the primary health care, a care function with responsibility for support and regular contact with patients diagnosed with common mental disorders (CMD). The objective with this part of the project is to evaluate whether primary health care centers with a care manager have a more adequate antidepressant medication treatment and more completed psychotherapy treatments (sub-study 2), and shorter net sick leave time (sub-study 3) compared with primary health care centres without access to a care manager.

Researchers:
Cecilia Björkelund
Tove Hedenrud
Gunnel Hensing
Kristina Holmgren
Christine Sandheimer, project manager

The overall aim is to facilitate and improve the access to the correct mental health care. The researchers will gather evidence related to the perspectives of the professionals, patients and the public mental health debate. They want to develop a multi-applicable framework across European countries and stakeholders in order to achieve the adequate access to mental health care in terms of diagnose and treatment in women and men.

The project has three objectives. The first focuses on collecting data related to a health perspective, patients' perspectives and the general debate on mental health. The second aim is to develop a framework that is applicable to achieve adequate access to proper care in terms of diagnosis and treatment and the third purpose is to provide tools and methods that can increase the effectiveness and efficiency of mental health care treatments.

The Mentally project targets professionals working within primary and specialized mental health care, ex-patients and possible patients of mental health care and their social network, the general public, academics, policy makers and journalists.

The MentALLY project

Researchers:
Malin Axelsson
Gunnel Hensing, project manager
Viktor Schønning
Simon Øverland

The aim of this project is to develop and test a method for improved communication between patient, doctor and manager regarding mental health and work. Based on previous research on work ability in mental illness, we have developed the “Capacity Note” - a form that deals with the patient's work situation, how the impaired health affects the ability to work and what adjustments can be made in the workplace. With the help of the Capacity Note, the patient discusses his/her situation with his/her doctor and then with his/her boss. The Capacity Note has been used for about a year in primary care and we are now about to evaluate what the participants thought about the Capacity Note and whether it affected their sick leave.

Researchers:
Annika Jakobsson
Lena Nordeman
Paula Nordling, project manager
Ingmarie Skoglund
Stephen Stansfeld
Simon Øverland

 

This project investigates if better work-related health and job satisfaction can be achieved by a different approach to the healthcare they provide called Person-centred care (PCC). PCC is an approach to care based on a partnership between patients/relatives and healthcare professionals. PCC has shown to have beneficial effects for patients’ health. The aim of the project is to evaluate if the implementation of person-centred care affects the work experience among healthcare professionals working in hospital wards. This project contains two ways of analysing this effect. The first part contains a questionnaire that is given to the healthcare professionals at three times (baseline, 6-month and 12-month follow-up). The other approach to the effect of the implementation of PCC is by analysing the data on sickness absence and turnover rates at unit level in hospitals across Västra Götaland, analyse this data over time, and compare the results with wards that have not implemented PCC. This project will provide further evidence how this change modifies work-related health, job satisfaction, sickness absence and intention to quit in a hospital setting.

Researchers:
Monica Bertilsson
Inger Ekman
Andreas Fors
Gunnel Hensing
Cornelia van Diepen, project manager

The aim of this research project is to find out more on how common mental disorders, work  capacity and work characteristics are interconnected. We will study whether the ability to work and its different functions (C2WI) differ among individuals with similar symptoms of common mental disorders at baseline that continue working and those who are on sick leave due to common mental disorder, at the follow-up.

We have developed the Capacity to Work Index (C2WI) specifically for this project which is based on results form qualitative interview studies with persons with common mental disorders. The C2WI constitutes the core of a survey that we will be distributed to a large sample of employees.

A knowledge gap that is highlighted in several scientific reviews is why some people with depression and anxiety continue to work, while others with similar work tasks and severity in depression and anxiety end up in sick leave. In the first phase of C2WI project, a Capacity to Work Index questionnaire has been developed to investigate this question. C2WI is based on previous qualitative studies on what work capacity is, developed within the New Ways research group. The index will be the core of the survey which will be distributed to a wide selection of employees in regions, municipalities and private companies in Sweden, to gain increased knowledge about the work capacity of individuals with depression and anxiety at population level.

Researchers:
Monica Bertilsson
Agneta Blomberg
Gunnel Hensing, project manager
Carin Staland Nyman
Christian Ståhl

In Sweden, many men with common mental disorders as depression and anxiety disorder do not seek care. The aim of this PhD project is to investigate why. The studies are based on survey data from general population samples in Sweden. Barriers can occur on multiple stages on the pathway to care: not perceiving a need, not seeking care, and perceiving the care as insufficient when seeking it. Therefore, the first study investigates differences based on gender, education, and country of birth in the likelihood to face these barriers. The second study investigates if men who faced these barriers have worse mental health outcomes than men who did not. The third and fourth study investigates men’s attitudes to sickness absence for depression, and the relation between men’s mental health literacy and mental healthcare-seeking.

Researchers:
Bo Burström
Gunnel Hensing
Jesper Löve
Sara Olsson, project manager

Work Instability Scale - Common Mental Disorders (WIS-CMD) is a research project whit aiming to develop an instrument that can be used in clinical settings and workplaces to detect early signs of declining work ability in employees at work with depression and anxiety.

Researchers:
Monica Bertilsson
Louise Danielsson, project manager
Gunnel Hensing
Kristina Holmgren

Background

The main focus and assumption of the New Ways researchprogram is the identification and treatment of common mental disorders with Swedish primary healthcare, early and adapted rehabilitation can strengthen working capacity and prevent short- and long-term sick leave. To be able to work is one of the main foundations for livelihood, social cohesion and structure in everyday life, and people should not be excluded due to lack of knowledge or prejudice among managers and supervisors on common mental disorders or due to shortcomings in the sick leave process and/or rehabilitation process.