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The Durations of Past Sickness Absences Predict Future Absence Episodes

Laaksonen, Mikko PhD; He, Liang MSc; Pitkäniemi, Janne PhD

Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine: January 2013 - Volume 55 - Issue 1 - p 87–92
doi: 10.1097/JOM.0b013e318270d724
Original Articles

Objectives: To determine whether preceding absence episodes increase the risk of future sickness absence, we examined recurrence of short (1 to 3 days), intermediate (4 to 14 days), and long (>2 weeks) sickness-absence episodes.

Methods: Data from 6934 municipal employees of the City of Helsinki were analyzed using proportional hazards models.

Results: Preceding sickness absence increased the risk of new sickness-absence episodes. The association was stronger for longer sickness absence spells and for men. Shorter absence spells also predicted longer absence spells. Working conditions and health behaviors did not modify the associations.

Conclusions: The risk of recurrent sickness absences is higher for longer sickness-absence spells, which are often recurrent in nature. In addition, short absence spells predict future longer spells, suggesting that short absences are not trivial for health.

From the Hjelt Institute, Department of Public Health, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland.

Address correspondence to: Mikko Laaksonen, PhD, Hjelt Institute, Department of Public Health, PO Box 41, FIN-00014, University of Helsinki, Finland (mikko.t.laaksonen@helsinki.fi).

The study was supported by the Academy of Finland.

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Copyright © 2013 by the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine