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Modifiable Health Risks and Illness Absence From Work: Evidence From the Panel Study of Income Dynamics

Gifford, Brian PhD

Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine: March 2013 - Volume 55 - Issue 3 - p 245–251
doi: 10.1097/JOM.0b013e31828349e7
Original Articles

Objective: Modifiable health risks such as smoking, exercise, and body weight have been linked to illness absence from work. This suggests that employers could improve their productivity if their workers adopted healthier lifestyles, but methodological concerns regarding selection bias and omitted variables remain.

Methods: We use a first-difference model of changes in health behaviors and illness- and family-related absence from work among a nationally representative, longitudinal panel of employed individuals.

Results: Workers who lost weight or increased their frequency of light exercise also saw their illness absences decrease over a 2-year period. Some, but not all, of the relationship is mediated by the change in health status. No such decrease was observed for family-related absences.

Conclusion: The findings are consistent with the proposition that both employers and employees could benefit from efforts to support better health habits.

From the Integrated Benefits Institute, San Francisco, Calif.

Address correspondence to: Brian Gifford, PhD, 595 Market St, Ste 810, San Francisco, CA 94105 (

The views expressed are those of the author alone and do not necessarily reflect those of the Integrated Benefits Institute or its members.

Author Gifford has no relationships/conditions/circumstances that present potential conflict of interest.

The JOEM editorial board and planners have no financial interest related to this research.

©2013The American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine