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The Association Between Body Mass Index Class, Sickness Absence, and Presenteeism

Janssens, Heidi MD; Clays, Els PhD; Kittel, France PhD; De Bacquer, Dirk PhD; Casini, Annalisa PhD; Braeckman, Lutgart PhD

Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine: May 2012 - Volume 54 - Issue 5 - p 604–609
doi: 10.1097/JOM.0b013e31824b2133
Original Articles

Objective: To examine the relationship between body mass index class, presenteeism, and prospective registered sickness absence.

Methods: Data were collected from 2983 Belgian workers. Presenteeism was assessed by a single question, evaluating the frequency of being at work, despite illness, during the preceding year. Sickness absence data were registered during 12 months' follow-up. Multiple logistic regression analysis was conducted.

Results: Body mass index class was positively and significantly associated with presenteeism (at least two occasions of working despite illness) in the male employees and was a significant predictor of high sickness absence (at least 10 sick leave days) in the female population. A final multivariate model demonstrated that these relations were only partly mediated by self-rated health.

Conclusion: The results of this study suggest a gender difference concerning absenteeism and presenteeism in overweight and obese employees.

From the Department of Public Health (Drs Janssens, De Bacquer, and Braeckman), Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium; and Department of Epidemiology and Health Promotion (Drs Kittel and Casini), School of Public Health, Université libre de Bruxelles, Brussels, Belgium.

Address correspondence to: Heidi Janssens, MD, Department of Public Health, Ghent University, University Hospital–(2) Block A, De Pintelaan 185, B-9000 Ghent, Belgium (

The Belstress III was supported by the Belgian Federal Service Employment, Labor and Social Dialogue, and by the European Social Fund.

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

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