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Sickness Presenteeism Today, Sickness Absenteeism Tomorrow? A Prospective Study on Sickness Presenteeism and Future Sickness Absenteeism

Bergström, Gunnar PhD; Bodin, Lennart PhD; Hagberg, Jan PhD; Aronsson, Gunnar PhD; Josephson, Malin PhD

Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine: June 2009 - Volume 51 - Issue 6 - p 629-638
doi: 10.1097/JOM.0b013e3181a8281b
Original Articles

Objective: To prospectively investigate whether sickness presenteeism (SP), ie, going to work despite illness, has an impact on future sickness absenteeism.

Methods: Two study populations were used, one female dominated from the public sector that included 3757 employees, and one male dominated from the private sector comprising 2485 employees.

Results: SP on more than five occasions during the baseline year (2000) was a statistically significant risk factor for future sick leave (2002 and 2003) of more than 30 days among both populations even after adjusting for previous sick leave, health status, demographics, lifestyle, and work-related variables (2002, public sector, relative risk = 1.40; private sector, relative risk = 1.51).

Conclusions: SP may be an important phenomenon to consider when evaluating measures aimed at decreasing sickness absenteeism because more SP may lead to future sickness absence.

From the Department of Clinical Neuroscience (Dr Bergström, Dr Bodin, Dr Hagberg), Section for Personal Injury Prevention, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden; Department of Public Health Sciences (Dr Bergström, Dr Bodin), Division of Intervention and Implementation Research, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden; Department of Psychology (Dr Aronsson), Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden; and Department of Medical Sciences (Dr Josephson), Section of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden.

CME Available for this Article at

Gunnar Bergström and coauthors have no financial interests related to this research.

Address correspondence to: Gunnar Bergström, PhD, Division of Intervention and Implementation Research, Department of Public Health Sciences, Karolinska Institutet, SE – 171 77 Stockholm, Sweden; E-mail:

Copyright © 2009 by the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine