Research project

Short description

This project explores preventive rehabilitation in primary health care, that is, occupational and physical therapy, focusing on improving work ability and mental health among workers with depression and anxiety. By supporting the worker to develop new strategies to self-manage their health and work situation, it is assumed that long sick leave spells can be prevented.

In a published pilot study, 42 working adults aged 28-63 years old were randomized to one of two groups: work-directed rehabilitation or advice about physical activity including access to a gym. Before the intervention and again after 8 weeks, the participants reported their perceived work ability and mental health. Both groups improved during the intervention period, but there was no statistically significant difference between the two groups,

To understand more about the work-directed intervention, 16 of the participants were interviewed in a qualitative study. A central theme was found: Increasing belief in one's capacity through supported reflection and practice. The participants reported that the support from the occupational and physical therapists and the individualized design of the program were very important to make changes in their daily lives. They described that they had learned new things about themselves and felt more hopeful. They found some strategies particularly useful: structuring work- and leisure time, understanding and managing symptoms of stress, recuperation at work and at home, and learning to set limits in their communication with others.

The two pilot studies will inform the planning and design of a full-scale research study to enable more robust evaluation of effects and implementation.

Contact: Louise Danielsson


Work-directed rehabilitation or physical activity to support work ability and mental health in common mental disorders: a pilot randomized controlled trial. 
Danielsson L, Waern M, Hensing G, Holmgren K
J Occup Environ 2010 Dec;52 (12), 1179-85

A short work-directed rehabilitation to promote work capacity while depressed and anxious: a qualitative study of workers' experiences. Disability and Rehabilitation.
Lork K, Holmgren K, Danielsson L
Disabil Rehabil 2019 Dec  25;1-10