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Working While Ill Linked to Later Sickness Absences

Last Updated: May 04, 2009.

Employees who come to work sick may run a higher risk of later long-term sickness absences, according to research published in the May issue of the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

MONDAY, May 4 (HealthDay News) -- Employees who come to work sick may run a higher risk of later long-term sickness absences, according to research published in the May issue of the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

Claus D. Hansen and Johan H. Andersen, M.D., of Herning Hospital in Denmark, analyzed data from 11,838 healthy Danish workers who had not taken sickness absence (SA) for more than 10 weeks in the previous year. Participants answered a questionnaire asking about recent frequency of coming to work sick, referred to as sickness presence (SP).

The researchers found that the number of SP episodes was associated with a higher risk of future long-term sickness absence of at least two weeks' duration, as well as durations of at least two months, even when controlling for other risk factors.

"We believe SP should be given more attention in public debate as well as in SA research where SA and efforts to reduce this receive the highest attention. Policies aiming to reduce SA without taking the possible effects of SP into account could encourage people to go to work ill. If employees are in fact substituting presenteeism for absenteeism, the effect of changes in SA policies might reduce SA without improving the employee's health. For these reasons, SA researchers should try to incorporate a measure of SP into their studies," the authors conclude.

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