Although illness is an important cause of sick leave, it has also been suggested that
non-medical risk factors may influence this association. If such factors impact on the
period of decision making, they should be considered as triggers. Yet, there is no
empirical support available.
The aim was to investigate whether recent exposure to work-related psychosocial
events can trigger the decision to report sick when ill.
A case-crossover design was applied to 546 sick-leave spells, extracted from a
Swedish cohort of 1 430 employees with a 3-12 month follow-up of new sick-leave
spells. Exposure in a case period corresponding to an induction period of one or two
days was compared with exposure during control periods sampled from workdays
during a two-week period prior to sick leave for the same individual. This was done
according to the matched-pair interval and the usual frequency approaches. Results
are presented as odds ratios (OR) with 95% confidence intervals (CI).
Most sick-leave spells happened in relation to acute, minor illnesses that substantially
reduced work ability. The risk of taking sick leave was increased when individuals
had recently been exposed to problems in their relationship with a superior (OR 3.63;
CI 1.44-9.14) or colleagues (OR 4.68; CI 1.43-15.29). Individuals were also more
inclined to report sick on days when they expected a very stressful work situation than
on a day when they were not under such stress (OR 2.27; CI 1.40-3.70).
Exposure to problems in workplace relationships or a stressful work situation seems
to be able to trigger reporting sick. Psychosocial work-environmental factors appear
to have a short-term effect on individuals when deciding to report sick.
BMC , 2011. Vol. 11, no 175
Hanna Hultin, Johan Hallqvist, Kristina Alexandersson, Gun Johansson, Lindholm Christina, Ingvar Lundberg and Jette Möller, Work-related psychosocial events as triggers of sickleave – results from a Swedish case-crossover study, 2011, BMC Public Health, (11), 175.
Licensee: BioMed Central