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Sickness absence in Denmark – research, results, and reflections

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Author(s): Thomas Lund | Merete Labriola

Journal: SJWEH Supplements
ISSN 1795-9926

Issue: 7;
Start page: 5;
Date: 2009;
Original page

Keywords: sick leave | review | return to work | predictor | mortality risk | disability | Denmark | sickness absence

ABSTRACT
OBJECTIVES: The aim of this paper is to provide an overview of recent research results on sickness absence in a Danish labor market context, as presented at the 53rd Nordic work environment meeting in 2008. The paper focuses on sickness absence predictors, return to work following sickness absence, and long-term consequences of sickness absence. An additional aim is to identify areas for future research and action. METHODS: We present 17 longitudinal studies: 11 on predictors of sickness absence (socio-demographic factors, work environment exposures, and health behavior); three on return to work (socio-demographic factors, work environment exposures, and self-efficacy); and three on consequences of sickness absence in terms of future disability pension and mortality risk. RESULTS: The combined use of survey and register data has provided a fundamental overview of the work-related predictors of sickness absence in the Danish working population. Both psychosocial and physical work factors increase the risk of long-term sickness absence, which is furthermore, a greater risk for female employees. The risk associated with the physical work environment at the individual level is greater in work groups with poor management quality. The use of survey and register data has aided in identifying populations (in terms of age, gender, socioeconomic position, and occupation) at high risk of sickness absence, disability pension, and mortality. CONCLUSION: The studies have filled a gap in Danish and international research regarding work-related predictors of sickness absence and return to work. Further research on sickness absence should aim to utilize data sources developed specifically for such purposes and strive to encompass the individual, organizational, and societal level simultaneously. Workplace-based interventions will probably benefit from addressing both the physical and psychosocial work environment at both the individual and organizational level.
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