Deaths increased as the medically certified absence rates (spells of more than 7 days) increased. Men and women who had more than five medically certified absences over 10 years had a death rate two to five times greater than those with no such absence.
In contrast to medically certified absences, the researchers found no significant association between self certified absences and death. However, their findings suggest that, compared with no absence, taking a few absences decreases rather than increases the risk of death because short-term absences may represent healthy coping behaviours.
Medically certified sickness absences may well capture the full array of illnesses employees experience during their job contract, say the authors. These routinely collected data could be used as a global measure of health differentials between employees.