Does motivation predict return to work? A longitudinal analysis

Charlotte Vanovenberghe, Marc Dubois, Emelien Lauwerier, Anja Vandenbroeck

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Objectives Motivation for return to work (RTW) reflects the degree of willingness to resume work activities and has been shown to be a crucial factor in long-term work disability. The satisfaction of basic psychological needs and motivation as described by the Self-Determination Theory (SDT) yield associations with outcomes such as quality of life and job satisfaction. The current study is the first study to examine whether motivation and basic psychological needs are predictive for RTW outcomes at 1-year follow-up. Methods About 349 people with a work disability (mean = 131.32 days off work) participated in this observational longitudinal research. Quality of motivation (MAWS) and basic psychological need satisfaction and frustration (BPNSFS) were measured at baseline. At 12-month follow-up, differences in RTW were assessed in terms of (1) time until RTW, (2) partial RTW, (3) relapse within 12 months, (4) work disability longer than 12 months. Binary logistic and cox regression analyses were used. Results Controlled motivation regarding the former job was related to shorter time until RTW. Autonomous motivation and amotivation did not seem predictive for RTW variables. The frustration of the basic needs was related to a longer work disability, need satisfaction was not related to the RTW variables. No significant predictors for relapse and partial RTW were found. Conclusions The frustration of basic psychological needs was predictive for a longer work disability. Controlled motivation on the other hand predicted faster RTW, which was an unexpected direction. SDT seems to have predictive value, yet underlying mechanisms remain unclear.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere12284
JournalJournal of Occupational Health
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2021
Externally publishedYes


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