INTRODUCTION: The return-to-work (RTW) process after long-term sickness absence is often complex and long and implies multiple shifts between different labour market states for the absentee. Standard methods for examining RTW research typically rely on the analysis of one outcome measure at a time, which will not capture the many possible states and transitions the absentee can go through. The purpose of this study was to explore the potential added value of sequence analysis in supplement to standard regression analysis of a multidisciplinary RTW intervention among patients with low back pain (LBP).
METHODS: The study population consisted of 160 patients randomly allocated to either a hospital-based brief or a multidisciplinary intervention. Data on labour market participation following intervention were obtained from a national register and analysed in two ways: as a binary outcome expressed as active or passive relief at a 1-year follow-up and as four different categories for labour market participation. Logistic regression and sequence analysis were performed.
RESULTS: The logistic regression analysis showed no difference in labour market participation for patients in the two groups after 1 year. Applying sequence analysis showed differences in subsequent labour market participation after 2 years after baseline in favour of the brief intervention group versus the multidisciplinary intervention group.
CONCLUSION: The study indicated that sequence analysis could provide added analytical value as a supplement to traditional regression analysis in prospective studies of RTW among patients with LBP.