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The Effect of Occupational and Workplace Gender Composition on Sickness Absence

Laaksonen, Mikko PhD; Martikainen, Pekka PhD; Rahkonen, Ossi PhD; Lahelma, Eero PhD

Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine: February 2012 - Volume 54 - Issue 2 - p 224–230
doi: 10.1097/JOM.0b013e318241ed42
Original Articles

Objectives: To examine whether gender composition of the occupation or the workplace is associated with sickness absence, whether the gender composition accounts for the observed female excess in sickness absence, and whether gender composition explains variation in sickness absence rates between occupations and workplaces.

Methods: Random effects models conducted among Helsinki employees (N = 36,395).

Results: Women and men working in women-dominated occupations and workplaces had more short-term (1 to 3 days') sickness absence. Gender composition of the occupation and the workplace partly explained gender differences in short-term but not in intermediate (4 to 14 days') and long-term (>2 weeks') absence. Gender composition also explained variation in short-term sickness absence among occupations and workplaces, but this was partly accounted for by social class, income, and job contract type.

Conclusions: The results are consistent with the assumption that short-term sickness absence reflects cultures and norms shaping sickness absence behavior.

From the Hjelt Institute, Department of Public Health (Drs Laaksonen, Rahkonen, and Lahelma); and Population Research Unit, Department of Social Research (Dr Martikainen), University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland.

Address correspondence to: Mikko Laaksonen, PhD, Hjelt Institute, Department of Public Health, PO Box 41, University of Helsinki, FIN-00014, Finland. E-mail:

The study was supported by the Academy of Finland.

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Copyright © 2012 by the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine