Identifying Return to Work Self‑Efficacy Trajectories in Employees with Mental Health Problems

Lena Horn*, M. Spronken, Evelien P. M. Brouwers, Renée S. M. de Reuver, Margot C. W. Joosen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

1 Citation (Web of Science)


Purpose Return to work self-efficacy (RTW-SE) is a strong predictor of return to work (RTW) in employees with mental health problems (MHPs). However, little is known about the development of RTW-SE during the RTW process. In this study, we aimed to identify RTW-SE trajectories in the year following sick leave in employees with MHPs and provided a description of the trajectories in terms of personal and work characteristics, and RTW status. Methods This multi-wave study included 111 employees with MHPs. RTW-SE was measured at baseline, and at 3, 6, and 12 months follow-up with the RTW-SE scale for employees with MHPs. Results Latent class growth analysis revealed six trajectories. In three trajectories employees had increasing RTW-SE scores, namely (class 1) low start, moderate increase, (class 3) moderate start, small increase and (class 5) moderate start, steep increase. The other trajectories were defined by (class 2) persistently high, (class 6) persistently low, and (class 4) decreasing RTW-SE scores over time. Employees across the various trajectories differed significantly with respect to RTW status, and personal and work characteristics measured at baseline, including age, gender, and type of MHP. Less favorable trajectories (class 4 and 6) were characterized by higher age, a higher prevalence of anxiety disorder and lower RTW rates. The most favorable trajectory (class 2) was characterized by a higher proportion of stress-related disorders and less major depression diagnoses. Conclusions Large heterogeneity exists in terms of RTW-SE trajectories in employees with MHPs and significant differences were found across the trajectories regarding personal and work characteristics, and RTW status. Insights into RTW-SE trajectories and their attributes are important to advance more effective and personalized RTW treatment for employees with MHPs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)64-76
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Occupational Rehabilitation
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2022


  • Latent class growth analysis
  • Mental health problems
  • Return to work self-efficacy
  • Sick leave
  • Trajectories


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