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Economic evaluation of return-to-work interventions for mental disorder-related sickness absence: two years follow-up of a randomized clinical trial



The objective was to (i) assess the long-term cost-effectiveness of acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), a workplace dialog intervention (WDI), and ACT+WDI compared to treatment as usual (TAU) for common mental disorders and (ii) investigate any differences in cost-effectiveness between diagnostic groups.


An economic evaluation from the healthcare and limited welfare perspectives was conducted alongside a randomized clinical trial with a two-year follow-up period. Persons with common mental disorders receiving sickness benefits were invited to the trial. We used registry data for cost analysis alongside participant data collected during the trial and the reduction in sickness absence days as treatment effect. A total of 264 participants with a diagnosis of depression, anxiety, or stress-induced exhaustion disorder participated in a two-year follow-up of a four-arm trial: ACT (N=74), WDI (N=60), ACT+WDI (N=70), and TAU (N=60).


For all patients in general, there were no statistically significant differences between interventions in terms of costs or effect. The subgroup analyses suggested that from a healthcare perspective, ACT was a cost-effective option for depression or anxiety disorders and ACT+WDI for stress-induced exhaustion disorder. With a two-year time horizon, the probability of WDI to be cost-saving in terms of sickness benefits costs was 80% compared with TAU.


ACT had a high probability of cost-effectiveness from a healthcare perspective for employees on sick leave due to depression or anxiety disorders. For participants with stress-induced exhaustion disorder, adding WDI to ACT seems to reduce healthcare costs, while WDI as a stand-alone intervention seems to reduce welfare costs.

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