Strategy for finding occupational health survey participants at risk of long-term sickness absence

Corné A. M. Roelen, Marieke F. A. van Hoffen, Jos W. R. Twisk, Martijn W. Heymans

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


BACKGROUND: When resources are limited, occupational health survey participants are usually invited to consultations based on an occupational health provider's subjective considerations. This study aimed to find health survey participants at risk of long-term (i.e., ≥ 42 consecutive days) sickness absence (LTSA) for consultations with occupational health providers (OHPs). METHODS: The data of 64 011 non-sicklisted participants in occupational health surveys between 2010 and 2015 were used for the study. In a random sample of 40 000 participants, 27 survey variables were included in decision tree analysis (DTA) predicting LTSA at 1-year follow-up. The decision tree was transferred into a strategy to find participants for OHP consultations, which was then tested in the remaining 24 011 participants. RESULTS: In the development sample, 1358 (3.4%) participants had LTSA at 1-year follow-up. DTA produced a decision tree with work ability as first splitting variable; company size and sleep problems were the other splitting variables. A strategy differentiating by company size would find 75% of the LTSA cases in small (≤99 workers) companies and 43% of the LTSA cases in medium-sized (100-499 workers) companies. For large companies (≥500 workers), case-finding was only 25%. CONCLUSIONS: In small and medium-sized companies, work ability and sleep problems can be used to find occupational health survey participants for OHP consultations aimed at preventing LTSA. Research is needed to further develop a case-finding strategy for large companies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1003-1009
Number of pages7
JournalEuropean Journal of Public Health
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 26 Oct 2021

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