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Work participation and mental health at work – The ADAPT research project

Research project
Active research
Project size
SEK 7 950 000
Project period
2021 - 2023
Project owner
Institute of Medicine

AFA Försäkring Dnr: 200060, Försäkringskassan Dnr: FK 2020-005231

Short description

How are mental health, work capacity and work environment connected? A large sample of employees are currently given the opportunity to help research forward as our research group seeks more and better knowledge about the factors that are important for developing working life and reducing mental health risks. The study is aimed at people in employment and consists of a web-based survey distributed through a link. We get help from trade unions and employers in disseminating information about the study, but they are not otherwise involved in the study itself. Detailed information about the study, confidentiality, volunteering and processing of personal data is provided to all participants in the introduction to the survey. Do not hesitate to contact us if you want to know more about our research project!

The purpose of the project

What factors promote work participation for individuals with common mental disorders (CMDs) is a highly relevant question, which we will investigate in this project. To answer the question we need to know more on how CMDs, work capacity and work characteristics are interconnected.

Why is this research project important?

These questions have rarely been investigated and especially in a large sample of Swedish employees. More knowledge is important for both individuals, employers and society at large.

You can also contact the research group via Professor Gunnel Hensing, e-mail: or phone: 031-786 6862, or assistant researcher Agneta Blomberg via e-mail: or phone: 031-786 3222.

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Other information

We have developed the Capacity to Work Index (C2WI) specifically for this project based on qualitative interviews with individuals with CMD. The index (C2WI) constitutes the core of the webbased survey that will be distributed to a large sample of employees in both private and public sector. The approach is unique since previous research rarely have focused on capacity to work with mental health problems in a large sample of employees. More specifically the aim of this project is to investigate whether capacity to work and its different features (C2WI) distinguish individuals with similar levels of CMD at baseline who continue to work from those who become sick-listed during follow-up. The web-based survey will in addition to the C2WI include questions about health and work environment. The webbased survey will be distributed by the Laboratory of Opinion Research (LORE) which is part of the SOM Institute at the University of Gothenburg. Work participation will be measured during follow-up, 12 months from baseline, based on the Swedish Social Insurance Agency’s registerdata on sick leave spells exceeding 14 days.

All personal data will be treated in accordance with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR EU 2016/679). The University of Gothenburg is the Data Protection Officer and can be reached through e-mail: or phone: 031-786 00 00. The lawful basis for processing personal data is public task, a task carried out in the public interest (article 6.1 e GDPR) and the purpose of processing personal data is to carry out the research project described above. The processing of sensitive personal data is necessary for scientific research purposes and takes place in accordance with the Ethics Review Act (Article 9.2 j GDPR). This project is financed by AFA Försäkring and approved by The Swedish Ethical Review Authority: 783-16, dated 2020/7/12.

We invite a random sample of public and private sector employees. We recruit participants through the employer and through trade unions, but they are not involved in the study in any other way and will not be informed about any individual responses to the web-survey. A link to our web-based survey will be attached to an email, if you want to participate click on the link, identify yourself digitally and answer the questions, which takes about 15 minutes. You can choose to answer the questionnaire in Swedish or English and when you have submitted your answers, your participation in the study is complete. Participation in the research project is voluntary, and you may choose to stop participating at any time, without giving a reason. All answers and results will be processed so that unauthorized persons cannot take part in them. We handle all personal data in accordance with the Data Protection Ordinance (GDPR EU 2016/679), responsible for personal data is the University of Gothenburg can be reached via e-mail: or telephone: 031-786 00 00. The legal basis for processing personal data is that it is necessary to perform a task of general interest (Article 6 (1) (e) of the GDPR) and the purpose of the processing of personal data is to be able to carry out the described research project. The study is approved by the Ethics Review Authority: dnr: 783-16, dated 7 / 12-2020.

Common mental disorders such as depression, anxiety and burnout are common in the working population. The WHO estimates the annual prevalence at 27% in the age groups 18-65 in the EU, Iceland, Norway and Switzerland. In Sweden common mental disorders is the most common cause for sick leave spells and pose a risk for reduced work capacity. According to international research there is limited success in reducing sickness absence levels due to mental health problems. There seems to be some missing pieces in the understanding of why some persons can continue to work with CMD while others cannot. The capacity to work might be one of these missing pieces as well as individual differences depending on the severity of the symptoms, effectiveness of treatment and differences in work tasks and work environment. The relationship between the severity of symptoms, treatment and ability to work is defined by a dynamic interaction between individuals and the work environment. Researchers have pointed to the need for more knowledge about this complex interplay to be able to limit symtoms and illness but also to avoid long-term sick leave.

The overall aim is to find out why some employees with common mental disorders such as depression and anxiety will continue to work while others cannot by answering the following questions:

• What are the different aspects of capacity to work in a sample of the Swedish working population in relation to common mental disorders?

• What associations can be found in different aspects of capacity to work and work place characteristics?

• What aspects of work capacity coincide with high or low sickness absence in people with similar levels of common mental disorder during a 12 months follow-up?

• Are different aspects of capacity to work affected depending on work sector and does the frequency and intensity of interpersonal encounters have special significance for the outcome?

Researchers within the New Ways research programme have conducted several qualitative studies in which people diagnosed with depression and anxiety have been interviewed. From the interviews the research group developed an index: Capacity to Work Index (C2WI). It is an index with a specific focus on various aspects that are particularly relevant for measuring capacity to work with common mental disorders. The instrument (C2WI) will be used in the web based survey designed by the research group which, in addition to questions about perceived capacity to work, consists of questions concerning the following areas: demographic characteristics, mental health (GHQ), well-being (WHO mental wellbeing index), treatments (drugs, psychotherapy, cognitive behavioural therapy), work environment (demand and control, copsoq). To be able to measure work participation, register data on sick leave > 14 days will ce collected from The Swedish Social Insurancy Agency, during a 12 months follow-up.