Objective: To study the relationship between depressive complaints and sickness absence in the working population.
Methods: Data from a prospective epidemiological cohort (n = 3339) were used. Depressive complaints were measured with the Hospital Anxiety and Depression (HAD-D) Scale. Sickness absence was assessed objectively through individual record linkage with the company registers.
Results: Higher levels of depressive complaints were associated with a shorter time to first sickness absence spell and a longer duration of sickness absence. In women with mild depressive complaints, the average number of sickness absence days over 10 months follow-up was 27.37 (SD = 64.73) days versus 11.01 (SD = 30.03) days (P < 0.001) in employees scoring within the reference range. In men this was 14.48 (SD = 38.73) days versus 7.67 (SD = 25.80) days (P < 0.001).
Conclusions: Prevention of mild depressive complaints might be beneficial in preventing future sickness absence.