Self-Reported Prognosis of Employability as an Indicator of Need for Rehabilitation: A Cohort Study in People with Back Pain

David Fauser*, Julia Marie Zimmer, André Golla, Nadine Schmitt, Wilfried Mau, Matthias Bethge

*Corresponding author for this work


Purpose Rehabilitation is a key strategy to enable people with disabilities or chronic diseases to participate in society and employment. In Germany, the approval of rehabilitation services is linked to personal requirements, including significantly compromised work ability due to illness. The subjective prognosis of employability (SPE) is a brief 3-item scale. The total score assesses the self-rated risk of permanent work disability and was therefore proposed to be an indicator to operationalize the requirements to determine the need for a medical rehabilitation measure. This cohort study examined whether rehabilitation and disability pensions can be predicted by the SPE in employees with back pain. Moreover, the study tested the applicability of the SPE regarding interrupted employment. Methods Employees aged 45 to 59 years who reported back pain in the last three months completed the SPE in 2017. The total score ranges from 0 to 3 points, with higher values indicating a higher risk of permanent work disability. Data on rehabilitation, disability pensions, and interrupted employment were extracted from administrative records covering the period until the end of 2018. Proportional hazard and logistic regression models were fitted. Results Data of 6,742 participants were included (mean age: 52.3 years; 57.8 % women). Maximum follow-up was 21 months. Of the participants, 38.8, 33.6, 21.4, and 6.2 % had an SPE score of 0, 1, 2, and 3 points, respectively. During followup, 535 individuals were approved for a rehabilitation measure and 49 individuals for a disability pension. Fully adjusted analyses showed an increased risk of a rehabilitation in employees with an SPE score of 3 points (HR = 2.20; 95 % CI 1.55; 3.11) and 2 points (HR = 1.76; 95 % CI 1.33; 2.31) compared to employees with an SPE score of 0 points. The risk of a disability pension (HR = 13.60; 95 % CI 4.56; 40.57) and the odds of interrupted employment (OR = 2.58; 95 % CI 1.72; 3.86) were also significantly increased for those with an SPE score of 3 points. Conclusions The brief SPE is an appropriate tool to identify individuals reporting back pain at risk of rehabilitation, poor work participation outcomes, and permanent work disability.

Original languageEnglish
JournalRehabilitation (Germany)
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)88-96
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 01.04.2022

Research Areas and Centers

  • Research Area: Center for Population Medicine and Public Health (ZBV)


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