Employees who stay out of work longer after an injury suffer more emotionally and find it harder to get future employment compared with those who go back to work early, according to a year-long study reported in the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery.

``Safe early-return-to-work programs are in the best interest of patients,'' the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons said in a statement. Employers also benefit through reduced disability payments, medical costs, absence from work and insurance premiums, according to the group.

Patients with extended disability often become depressed and show decreased motivation, and their medical outcomes are usually worse than those of patients who participate in early-return-to-work programs, said Dr. J. Mark Melhorn, an orthopaedic surgeon at The Hand Center in Wichita, Kansas.