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Patients’ return-to-work expectancy relates to their beliefs about their physician’s opinion regarding return to work volition and ability

Journal article
Authors Benjamin Claréus
Emma Aurora Renström
Published in Journal of Pain Research
Volume 12
Pages 353–362
ISSN 1178-7090
Publication year 2019
Published at Department of Psychology
Pages 353–362
Language en
Keywords rehabilitation, pain, outcome expectations, general practice, RTW
Subject categories Psychology, Other Medical Sciences


Purpose This study investigates the relationship between sick-listed patients’ return to work (RTW) expectancy and how they perceive that their physicians evaluate their ability and volition for RTW. Methods Hierarchical logistic regression controlling for sociodemographic factors and pain characteristics was carried out on cross-sectional data from 205 participants (mean age= 47.24±9.66 years, 83.9% women). They were currently on full-time sick leave with a total duration of 10 years or less and represented various diagnosed and undiagnosed pain conditions. Results A positive expectation for RTW within a year was significantly associated with the belief that the physician favorably evaluated one’s ability (OR= 1.44, 95% CI= 1.13–1.83) and volition (OR= 1.42, 95% CI= 1.11–1.83) to RTW. This held even when other variables significantly associated with RTW expectancy were accounted for. Beyond beliefs, only age made a significant contribution in our final model (OR= 0.94, 95% CI= 0.90–0.98). Conclusion The results indicate that patients’ beliefs regarding their physician’s opinion about their ability and volition for RTW influence their own RTW expectancy. Rehabilitation might be facilitated if health care professionals address and affirm patients’ ability and volition for RTW, regardless of patients’ pain characteristics or if the total duration of their sick leave is <10 years. As other studies have found that RTW expectancy is one of the strongest predictors for actual RTW, future research should test the effect of beliefs about physicians’ opinions on actual RTW rates.

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