We examined how return to work predicted subsequent change in emotional distress in 143 patients who had been employed at the time of initial myocardial infarction. Ninety patients (63%) returned to work by 4 months and remained employed at 12 months. There were no differences in mental health at baseline between those who returned to work and those who did not, but emotional distress decreased significantly between 4 and 12 months only in the group who returned to work. Emotional distress declined after resuming work even when employees returned to jobs with which they reported dissatisfaction at the time of the myocardial infarction. The relationship between return to work and decreasing emotional distress remained after controlling for initial physical and psychological adjustment as well as sociodemographic and social support characteristics. The improvements in mental health associated with return to work should reassure clinicians who emphasize the emotional as well as economic value of work after an initial myocardial infarction.
(Arch Intern Med. 1992;152:381-385)