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Chronic pain and sick leave in a 21-year follow up

Drab, Beata, Aili, Katarina, Haglund, Emma, Bergman, Stefan

Artikel i tidskrift (Refereegranskat)


Background: Chronic musculoskeletal pain (CMP) is a common cause of disability and impaired quality of life. In Sweden, chronic pain and mental illness are major causes of sick leave. But sick leave itself is also proposed as a risk factor for prolonged sick leave and disability pension.

Objectives: To study CMP and sick leave as potential risk factors for long term sick leave or disability pension in a 21 year follow up of a general population cohort.

Methods: In a cohort study, with a baseline survey in 1995, 1466 individuals aged 20-67 years were followed for 3 years and 691 for 21 years, or up to the age of 67. CMP (>3 months duration) was reported on a pain mannequin. Sick leave and disability pension were self-reported. Mental health was measured by the mental health (MH) score of the SF-36 health status, and categorized into tertiaries (best, medium and worst). CMP, sick leave, and mental health at baseline, were studied as potential predictors for long term sick leave (disability pension or sick leave >3 months) at a 3 and 21 year follow up. Other potential predictors (socioeconomic group, education, and immigrant status) were introduced in multiple regression analyzes but did not add to the results and were removed from the final models, which were controlled for age and sex.

Results: CMP and mental health predicted long term sick leave at the 3 year follow up (OR 2.11, p=0.010 and OR 3.52, p<0.001). Mental health (OR 1.92, p=0.046), but not CMP (OR 0.77, p=0.409), was also a predictor at the 21 year follow up. Sick leave >3 months, irrespectively if due to pain or not, predicted long term sick leave both at the 3 and the 21 year follow up (Table). Sick leave for ≤3 months also predicted long term sick leave at both follow ups when due to pain (OR 2.70, p=0.008 and OR 2.78, p=0.012), but not when due to other causes (OR 1.52, p=0.212 and OR 1.17, p=0.606).

Conclusion: Sick leave and especially sick leave due to pain predicted long term sick leave up to 21 years later, independently of pain status or mental health at baseline. It is thus important to early identify individuals at risk and minimize sick leave by providing proper rehabilitation.

© Drab, Aili, Haglund & Bergman 2019. No commercial re-use. See rights and permissions. Published by BMJ.

Nyckelord: Chronic pain; Sickness absence

Citera: Drab, Beata, Aili, Katarina, Haglund, Emma & Bergman, Stefan, Chronic pain and sick leave in a 21-year follow up, Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases., 78:Suppl 2, s. 122-122, 2019https://doi.org/10.1136/annrheumdis-2019-eular.2021