December/January 2015/2016 (vol. 12/4)

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Research Plus

Reduction of chronic-disease sickness absence

There is very high-quality evidence that workplace interventions can reduce total sickness absence in workers with chronic illness, compared with ‘usual care’, according to this Cochrane systematic review of 14 randomised controlled trials and meta-analysis. The interventions variously included altering the working conditions, equipment, design and environment, and, in 12 of the studies, case management involving the worker, manager and an OH professional. Impact on sickness absence was assessed after 12 months in all but one of the studies. Mean cumulative absence after 12 months was 166 days for the usual-care groups; this was reduced by 33 days in the intervention groups (CI 17–50). Interventions specifically for musculoskeletal disorders reduced total absence as well as the time to the first return to work and the time to a lasting return (moderate-quality evidence). Interventions addressing mental health problems produced no significant improvement in sickness absence or time to a lasting return, but did reduce time to the first return (low-quality evidence).


Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2015; 10: CD006955. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD006955.pub3


Occupational Health at Work December/January 2015/2016 (vol. 12/4) pp37