The Influence of Social Support and Social Integration Factors on Return to Work Outcomes for Individuals with Work-Related Injuries: A Systematic Review
White C, Green R, Ferguson S, Anderson S, Howe C, Sun J, Buys N.
Purpose In occupational rehabilitation, the biopsychosocial model endorses the role of social factors in worker recovery. We conducted a systematic review to explore three questions examining the role of social support for the return-to-work (RTW) of individuals with work-related injury: (1) What are the worker-identified social barriers and facilitators in RTW; (2) What is the relationship between social factors and RTW; and (3) What is the effectiveness of social interventions for RTW. Methods Systematic searches of six databases were conducted for each research question. These identified 11 studies meeting inclusion criteria for Research Question 1, and 12 studies for Research Question 2. No studies were identified that met inclusion criteria for Research Question 3. A narrative synthesis approach was used to analyse the included studies. Results Research Question 1 identified five themes in social barriers and facilitators to RTW, including contact/communication, person-centred approaches, mutual trust, reaction to injury, and social relationships. Research Question 2 identified moderate support for reaction to injury and social integration/functioning as predictors of RTW and weak evidence for co-worker support. Four studies reported significant associations between social factors and RTW, six reported mixed findings with at least one significant social predictor, and two found no significant relationships. However, conclusions were limited by the inconsistency in measurement of social factors. Conclusions Our findings indicate that social support and integration may influence RTW following work-related injury, and highlights the need for further systematic examination of social factors in the field of occupational rehabilitation.