Process evaluation of a problem solving intervention to prevent recurrent sickness absence in workers with common mental disorders

Iris Arends*, Ute Bultmann, Karina Nielsen, Willem van Rhenen, Michiel R. de Boer, Jac J. L. van der Klink

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


Common mental disorders (CMOs) are a major cause of sickness absence. Twenty to 30% of the workers who return to work after sickness absence due to CMOs experience recurrent sickness absence. We developed the Stimulating Healthy participation And Relapse Prevention (SHARP)-at work intervention, a problem solving intervention delivered by occupational physicians (OPs), to prevent recurrent sickness absence in this worker population in The Netherlands. A process evaluation was conducted alongside a cluster-randomised controlled trial to (1) evaluate whether the SHARP-at work intervention was implemented according to the protocol and differed from treatment in the control group, and (2) to investigate the relationship between the key elements of the intervention and the effect outcome (i.e. recurrent sickness absence). We collected process data for both the intervention and control group on recruitment, reach, dose delivered, dose received, fidelity, context and satisfaction. Data on recurrent sickness absence was collected through the registry system of the collaborating occupational health service. The study was performed in the Netherlands, and between 2010 and 2012, 154 OPs and 158 participants participated. Compared to the control group, participants in the intervention group more frequently had two or more consultations with the OP (odds ratio [OR] = 3.2, 95% confidence interval [Cl] = 1.2-8.8) and completed more assignments (OR = 33.8, 95% CI = 10.4-109.5) as recommended in the intervention protocol. OPs and participants were satisfied with the intervention and rated it as applicable. Several individual intervention components were linked to the effect outcome. The process evaluation showed that the SHARP-at work intervention was conducted according to the protocol for the majority of the participants and well-received by OPs and participants. Furthermore, the intervention differed from treatment in the control group. Overall, the results provide support for implementing the intervention in practice. (C) 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)123-132
Number of pages10
JournalSocial Science & Medicine
Publication statusPublished - Jan-2014


  • Netherlands
  • Process evaluation
  • Cluster-randomised controlled trial
  • Problem solving intervention
  • Common mental disorders
  • Recurrent sickness absence
  • Occupational health care

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