Objectives: To assess the impact of return-to-work (RTW) status on health-related quality of life (HRQOL) over a 2-year period in workers with traumatic limb injuries and to elucidate factors that may contribute to the association of RTW with HRQOL. Design: A 2-year repeated-measurements follow-up study using the generalized estimating equations approach for model fitting to account for within-subject correlations of HRQOL. Setting: One teaching hospital. Participants: Injured patients (N=966, 61% men) with a mean age of 44.7 years. Interventions: Not applicable. Main Outcome Measures: The RTW status, HRQOL (assessed by the EuroQol five-dimensional questionnaire), and activity/participation were repeatedly surveyed at 2 weeks and 1, 3, 6, 12, 18, and 24 months after injury. A series of regression models was used to examine the associations between HRQOL and RTW, with sequential adjustment for explanatory variables such as personal and environmental factors, body structure and function, activity/participation, and postinjury period. Results: Over a 2-year study period, 81.2% of the study participants had 1 or more RTW episodes; 38.2% of them successfully maintained their RTW status until the end. A significant positive association was found between RTW status and HRQOL. The association could largely be explained by the domains of activity/participation. A higher HRQOL was associated with a shorter length of hospital stay, better coping ability, frequent participation in activities of daily living, and a longer postinjury period. A reduced HRQOL, however, was observed for participants with more depressive symptoms. Conclusions: RTW showed a positive and independent influence on HRQOL in workers with limb injury. In addition, the activity/participation domains and the elapsed time since injury largely explained the association between RTW and HRQOL.
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