Background: Medically unexplained physical symptoms (MUPS) are a leading cause of reduced work functioning. It is not known which factors are associated with reduced work functioning in people with moderate MUPS. Insight in these factors can contribute to prevention of reduced work functioning, associated work-related costs and in MUPS becoming chronic. Therefore, the aim of this study was to identify which demographic and health-related factors are associated with reduced work functioning, operationalized as impaired work performance and absenteeism, in people with moderate MUPS.
Methods: Data of 104 participants from an ongoing study on people with moderate MUPS were used in this cross-sectional study. Ten independent variables were measured at baseline to determine their association with reduced work functioning: severity of psychosocial symptoms (four domains, measured with the Four-Dimensional Symptom Questionnaire), physical health (RAND 36-Item Health Survey), moderate or vigorous physical activity (Activ8 activity monitor), age, sex, education level and duration of complaints. Two separate multivariable linear regression analyses were performed with backward stepwise selection, for both impaired work performance and absenteeism.
Results: Absenteeism rate rose with 2.5 and 0.6% for every increased point on the Four-Dimensional Symptom Questionnaire for domain 'depression' (B = 0.025, SE = 0.009, p = .006) and domain 'somatization' (B = 0.006, SE = 0.003, p = .086), respectively. An R2 value of 0.118 was found. Impaired work performance rate rose with 0.2 and 0.5% for every increased point on the Four-Dimensional Symptom Questionnaire for domain 'distress' (B = 0.002, SE = 0.001, p = .084) and domain 'somatization' (B = 0.005, SE = 0.001, p < .001), respectively. An R2 value of 0.252 was found.
Conclusions: Severity of distress, probability of a depressive disorder and probability of somatization are positively associated with higher rates of reduced work functioning in people with moderate MUPS. To prevent long-term absenteeism and highly impaired work performance severity of psychosocial symptoms seem to play a significant role. However, because of the low percentage of explained variance, additional research is necessary to gain insight in other factors that might explain the variance in reduced work functioning even better.