Early intervention helps reduce depression and long-term sickness absence in office workers

shutterstock_51265582 workplace depression

This randomised controlled trial from Maastricht University in The Netherlands examines how well early intervention can help prevent long-term sickness absence and major depression among office workers who are at high risk of taking time off work with mild to severe depressive complaints.

Researchers recruited 139 employees working in an office environment, all of whom were at high risk of future sickness absence and with mild to severe depressive.  They were randomly assigned to an early intervention group or a control group and assessed at baseline, 6, 12 and 18 months for depression (using the Beck Depression Inventory) and sickness absence.

An intention-to-treat analyses was carried out and the results showed that the early intervention was helpful:

  • The early intervention group had significantly fewer total sick days over 12 months (27.5 calendar days (SD 44.7)) than the control group (50.8 days (SD 75.8)).  A reduction of 46% (p = 0.017)
  • The intervention group showed a non-significantly lower proportion of long-term sickness absence spells compared with the control group (p = 0.127)
  • Statistically significant and clinically relevant differences in depressive complaints were found after both 6 months (p = 0.001) and 12 months (p = 0.005) of follow-up, in favour of the intervention group

The research team concluded:

Early intervention in employees with mild to severe depressive complaints and high risk of future long-term sickness absence proved to be effective in preventing/reducing both sickness absence and depressive complaints.

Lexis MA, Jansen NW, Huibers MJ, van Amelsvoort LG, Berkouwer A, Tjin A Ton G, van den Brandt PA, Kant I. Prevention of long-term sickness absence and major depression in high-risk employees: a randomised controlled trial. Occup Environ Med. 2011 Jun;68(6):400-7. Epub 2010 Oct 5. [PubMed abstract]

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Andre Tomlin

André Tomlin is an Information Scientist with 20 years experience working in evidence-based healthcare. He's worked in the NHS, for Oxford University and since 2002 as Managing Director of Minervation Ltd, a consultancy company who do clever digital stuff for charities, universities and the public sector. Most recently André has been the driving force behind the Mental Elf and the National Elf Service; an innovative digital platform that helps professionals keep up to date with simple, clear and engaging summaries of evidence-based research. André is a Trustee at the Centre for Mental Health and an Honorary Research Fellow at University College London Division of Psychiatry. He lives in Bristol, surrounded by dogs, elflings and lots of woodland!

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