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Depressive Complaints as a Predictor of Sickness Absence Among the Working Population

Lexis, Monique A. S. MSc; Jansen, Nicole W. H. PhD; van Amelsvoort, Ludovic G. P. M. PhD; van den Brandt, Piet A. PhD; Kant, IJmert PhD

Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine: August 2009 - Volume 51 - Issue 8 - p 887-895
doi: 10.1097/JOM.0b013e3181aa012a
Original Articles

Objective: To study the relationship between depressive complaints and sickness absence in the working population.

Methods: Data from a prospective epidemiological cohort (n = 3339) were used. Depressive complaints were measured with the Hospital Anxiety and Depression (HAD-D) Scale. Sickness absence was assessed objectively through individual record linkage with the company registers.

Results: Higher levels of depressive complaints were associated with a shorter time to first sickness absence spell and a longer duration of sickness absence. In women with mild depressive complaints, the average number of sickness absence days over 10 months follow-up was 27.37 (SD = 64.73) days versus 11.01 (SD = 30.03) days (P < 0.001) in employees scoring within the reference range. In men this was 14.48 (SD = 38.73) days versus 7.67 (SD = 25.80) days (P < 0.001).

Conclusions: Prevention of mild depressive complaints might be beneficial in preventing future sickness absence.

From the Department of Epidemiology (Ms Lexis, Dr Jansen, Dr van Amelsvoort, Dr van den Brandt, Dr Kant), Faculty of Health, Medicine, and Life Sciences, Maastricht University, Maastricht, The Netherlands; and School for Public Health and Primary Care (CAPHRI) (Ms Lexis, Dr Jansen, Dr van Amelsvoort, Dr van den Brandt, Dr Kant), Maastricht, The Netherlands.

CME Available for this Article at

Monique Lexis and coauthors have no commercial interests related to this research.

Address correspondence to: Monique Lexis, MSc, Department of Epidemiology, Maastricht University, School for Public Health and Primary Care, P.O. Box 616, 6200 MD, Maastricht, The Netherlands; E-mail:

©2009The American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine