Adjustment disorders are a frequent cause of sick leave and various interventions have been developed to expedite the return to work (RTW) of individuals on sick leave due to adjustment disorders.
To assess the effects of interventions facilitating RTW for workers with acute or chronic adjustment disorders.
We searched the Cochrane Depression, Anxiety and Neurosis Review Group's Specialised Register (CCDANCTR) to October 2011; the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL) to Issue 4, 2011; MEDLINE, EMBASE, PsycINFO and ISI Web of Science, all years to February 2011; the WHO trials portal (ICTRP) and ClinicalTrials.gov in March 2011. We also screened reference lists of included studies and relevant reviews.
We selected randomised controlled trials (RCTs) evaluating the effectiveness of interventions to facilitate RTW of workers with adjustment disorders compared to no or other treatment. Eligible interventions were pharmacological interventions, psychological interventions (such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and problem solving therapy), relaxation techniques, exercise programmes, employee assistance programmes or combinations of these interventions. The primary outcomes were time to partial and time to full RTW, and secondary outcomes were severity of symptoms of adjustment disorder, work functioning, generic functional status (i.e. the overall functional capabilities of an individual, such as physical functioning, social function, general mental health) and quality of life.
Data collection and analysis
Two authors independently selected studies, assessed risk of bias and extracted data. We pooled studies that we deemed sufficiently clinically homogeneous in different comparison groups, and assessed the overall quality of the evidence using the GRADE approach.
We included nine studies reporting on 10 psychological interventions and one combined intervention. The studies included 1546 participants. No RCTs were found of pharmacological interventions, exercise programmes or employee assistance programmes. We assessed seven studies as having low risk of bias and the studies that were pooled together were comparable. For those who received no treatment, compared with CBT, the assumed time to partial and full RTW was 88 and 252 days respectively. Based on two studies with a total of 159 participants, moderate-quality evidence showed that CBT had similar results for time (measured in days) until partial RTW compared to no treatment at one-year follow-up (mean difference (MD) -8.78, 95% confidence interval (CI) -23.26 to 5.71). We found low-quality evidence of similar results for CBT and no treatment on the reduction of days until full RTW at one-year follow-up (MD -35.73, 95% CI -113.15 to 41.69) (one study with 105 participants included in the analysis). Based on moderate-quality evidence, problem solving therapy (PST) significantly reduced time until partial RTW at one-year follow-up compared to non-guideline based care (MD -17.00, 95% CI -26.48 to -7.52) (one study with 192 participants clustered among 33 treatment providers included in the analysis), but we found moderate-quality evidence of no significant effect on reducing days until full RTW at one-year follow-up (MD -17.73, 95% CI -37.35 to 1.90) (two studies with 342 participants included in the analysis).
We found moderate-quality evidence that CBT did not significantly reduce time until partial RTW and low-quality evidence that it did not significantly reduce time to full RTW compared with no treatment. Moderate-quality evidence showed that PST significantly enhanced partial RTW at one-year follow-up compared to non-guideline based care but did not significantly enhance time to full RTW at one-year follow-up. An important limitation was the small number of studies included in the meta-analyses and the small number of participants, which lowered the power of the analyses.