IRSST - Institut de recherche Robert-Sauvé en santé et en sécurité du travail

A Program To Improve the Return to Work of Injured and Depressed Workers

  •   October 31, 2019

Montréal, October 31st, 2019 – Many workers who have been injured on the job present symptoms of pain and depression, which can have negative effects on their recovery. Symptoms of depression can hinder a person’s ability to perform many important activities of daily living, including occupational activities. Studies have shown that injured workers with symptoms of depression remain off work twice as long as those who are not depressed. Interventions used to treat pain in injured workers are clearly less effective when they also present symptoms of depression.

The aim of this study, funded by the Institut de recherche Robert-Sauvé en santé et en sécurité du travail (IRSST) and conducted by a team of researchers from McGill University, was to assess the feasibility and impact of a type of intervention designed specifically to address the needs of injured workers with symptoms of both pain and depression. This type of intervention was named a “Progressive Goal Activity Program” (PGAP). “The program combines a wide range of techniques designed to increase the practice of physical activities, improve mood and help the injured worker return to work,” explained Michael J. L. Sullivan, a researcher and professor in the Department of Psychology at McGill University. In such interventions, the injured worker meets with a properly trained rehabilitation professional for one hour a week over a maximum of 10 weeks.”

Following a vast recruitment campaign run in newspapers, on the radio and in rehabilitation clinics in Greater Montreal, 57 injured workers (43 men and 14 women) participated in the study, most of them right to the end. The average age was 41 years. Their participation in the PGAP brought about numerous positive changes. By the end of the intervention, the participants were more optimistic about their situation and their health condition, and were less afraid of engaging in physical activities. They also reported a reduction in their pain and an improvement in their mood and quality of life. When contacted six months after completing treatment, 58% of the participants said they were back at work. However, given the absence of a control group, it is impossible to make a formal statement about the degree to which the intervention influenced the return-to-work results.

Promising results
The results of this study suggest that the PGAP may contribute to improving the clinical condition and the return to work of injured workers who have symptoms of both pain and depression. Most of the participants reported being satisfied with the treatments received and that their quality of life had improved. The study results also make it possible to envisage assessing the effectiveness of the PGAP in controlled clinical trials.

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Noémie Boucher
Communications Advisor , IRSST
514-288-1551, extension 206
[email protected]