En route to flourishing - a longitudinal mixed methods study of long-term unemployed citizens in an interdisciplinary rehabilitation program

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Interdisciplinary rehabilitation programmes (IRP) are used in municipality settings to assist unemployed citizens with complex health and/or life issues. Individually tailored IRP activities help people develop their personal working life skills and increase their chances of re-entering the work force. The aims of this paper were to describe citizens’ wellbeing in terms of health aspects, explore the impact of stressful life events on wellbeing and obtain understanding of how IRP activities affect the participants’ development towards future employment.

A mixed methods exploratory approach has been used. For data collection a quantitative longitudinal survey (baseline and 1-year follow-up) and qualitative interviews were conducted. Descriptive statistics were used for the analysis of survey data, while the data material from interviews was analysed using directed content analysis. Results were discussed with the theory of flourishing as a framework to develop understanding.

At baseline, 146 respondents (71% females) filled in the survey and seven participants were interviewed. The analysis of survey data and interviews revealed five themes: (1) Stressful life events, (2) Positive emotions - how IRP-activities positively impacted wellbeing and physical capacity, (3) Appreciation of engagement, (4) Relationships, and (5) Meaning and optimal functioning. Results showed that IRP participants from the outset experienced high general pain intensity as well as distress, anxiety and depression. Life events relating both to physical health and work life were significant for their wellbeing. IRP activities supported participants’ positive development towards future employment in ways that were specific to each individual.

From this study it can be derived that participants’ development took place around self-acceptance, acceptance by others, physical capacity, psychological resources and capacity to balance engagement to cultivate the best version of themselves. In future programmes, it may be emphasized that participants’ interest may be an important driver for wellbeing and future employment.

Trial registration
ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT02641704, date of registration December 29, 2015.
Original languageEnglish
Article number675
JournalBMC Public Health
Issue number1
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - 7. Apr 2022


  • Municipality
  • PERMA model
  • Qualitative interviews
  • Social service interventions
  • Survey
  • Vocational rehabilitation
  • Work ability
  • Work skills
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Unemployment
  • Anxiety Disorders
  • Female
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Anxiety
  • Longitudinal Studies


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