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Health care professionals´ experience-based understanding of individuals´ capacity to work while depressed and anxious

Journal article
Authors Monica Bertilsson
Jesper Löve
Gunnar Ahlborg
Gunnel Hensing
Published in Scandinavian Journal of Occupational Therapy
Volume 22
Issue 2
Pages 126-136
ISSN 1103-8128
Publication year 2015
Published at Institute of Medicine, School of Public Health and Community Medicine
Pages 126-136
Language en
Keywords work capacity, qualitative analysis, mental disorders, focus groups, fitness for work
Subject categories Other Medical Sciences


Aim. The meaning of capacity to work while depressed and anxious is not well comprehended. The aim of this study was to explore and describe health care professionals’ experience-based understanding of capacity to work in individuals with depression and/or anxiety disorders. Method. An exploratory qualitative design was used. Four focus groups were conducted with 21 professionals from psychiatric, occupational, and primary health care. Data were analysed using inductive content analysis. Results. Capacity to work while depressed and anxious was understood as a change from the familiar to a no longer recognizable performance at work. Managing time, daily work demands, and emotions was described as difficult for the patients, and capacity to work could be fragmented by anxiety attacks. Patients were perceived as continuing to work while life outside work crumbled. Capacity to work was described as part of a greater whole, the work community, and the patient’s participation in the work community was considered problematic. Conclusions. The findings provide a deeper understanding of the reduced capacity to work compared with theoretical or medico-administrative descriptions. Applied to patient encounters it could promote fitness-for-work dialogues, rehabilitation, and tailor-made work interventions.

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