Vocational rehabilitation shows modest effectiveness according to nationwide Finnish study

Since 2004, access to vocational rehabilitation services is a statutory right in Finland.  This includes persons who are assessed to have a threat of disability retirement within the next five years due to an illness or injury. The main services include work try-outs, work counselling, and training.

In a nationwide register-based study, the difference in work participation was assessed between individuals receiving work-oriented vocational rehabilitation and those who did not. The study included 3199 recently employed individuals (aged 30–55) with a history of work disability due to musculoskeletal disease or mental disorder.  These persons started vocational rehabilitation in 2008–2010 (intervention group) and were compared to 3199 others (control group).

Vocational rehabilitation resulted in a gain in work participation with 7.2% difference three years before and after the rehabilitation. For rehabilitation lasting up to 10 months, the gains tended to be short term, whereas, for longer rehabilitation, they tended to be delayed. Women with musculoskeletal diseases showed the lowest gain.

Overall, vocational rehabilitation after work disability for this group showed modest effectiveness on work participation. Alternative and complementary interventions need to be considered. Sustained work participation after shorter rehabilitation, which likely comprises workplace interventions, may call for improved support that exceeds the time frame of the current vocational rehabilitation services. Faster work resumption after longer rehabilitation, which likely comprises training programmes, may require further support for employability.


Leinonen T, Viikari-Juntura E, Husgafvel-Pursiainen K, Juvonen-Posti P, Laaksonen M, Solovieva S. The effectiveness of vocational rehabilitation on work participation: a propensity score matched analysis using nationwide register data. Scand J Work Environ Health. 2019 Apr 12. pii: 3823. DOI: 10.5271/sjweh.3823.

Contact: Professor Eira Viikari-Juntura (eira.viikari-juntura@ttl.fi)

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