Going to Work Sick Linked to Long-Term Leave

Habitually working while sick, an increasingly common practice, can land a person in a situation in which his risk of having to take long-term sick leave is markedly increased, according to a recent study. The researchers, who published their work in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, enrolled nearly 12,000 Danes in their investigation. The men and women, who had been unbrokenly employed for at least a year, filled out questionnaires revealing their attitudes toward work, their willingness to take time off for illness, and their general health.


The scientists asked the participants how frequently in the past year they went to work sick when they reasonably could have stayed home. The researchers then examined official work-attendance records over the next 18 months, looking for periods of sick leave lasting at least two weeks.
   
The most common factors causing workers to engage in so-called sickness presence were poor general health, a heavy workload, conflicts between work and family life, a good level of social support, holding a senior post, and obesity. Those who had come to work sick at least six times were 53 percent more likely to wind up taking sick leave for two weeks, and were 74 percent more likely to take more than two months of sick leave, compared with those who stayed home when sick.
   
The results didn’t fluctuate even after accounting for known risk factors for long-term sick leave, previous periods of long sickness absence, and overall health.
   
The researchers conjectured that short periods of sick leave may give workers the health-enhancing option of de-stressing from a hectic workplace. Overall, they said, the evidence points to employment being good for health – but that long-term sick leave is connected with difficulties finding work.


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