Original article

Scand J Work Environ Health Online-first -article    pdf

doi:10.5271/sjweh.3695

Unhealthy lifestyle and sleep problems as risk factors for increased direct employers’ cost of short-term sickness absence

by Kanerva N, Pietiläinen O, Lallukka T, Rahkonen O, Lahti J

Objectives Unhealthy lifestyle (eg, smoking) as well as sleep problems are associated with increased risk of sickness absence, but the financial impact of these associations beyond risk ratios is not well known. We aimed to estimate the additive contribution of lifestyle and sleep problems (risk factors) to direct costs of short-term (<15 days) sickness absence.

Methods The Helsinki Health Study is a longitudinal cohort of employees of the City of Helsinki, Finland (N=8960, response rate 67%). During 2000–2002 the participants were mailed a survey questionnaire that gathered information on their lifestyle and sleep. A sum of the risk factors was calculated: participants received one point for being a smoker; high alcohol user (>7 servings/week for women and >14 servings/week for men); physically inactive [<14 metabolic equivalents (MET) hours/week]; having low fruit and vegetable consumption (<1 times/day); or suffering from frequent insomnia symptoms. Sickness absence, salary, and time of employment were followed through the employer’s register between 2002–2016. Individual salary data were used to calculate the direct costs of short-term sickness absence. Data were analyzed using a two-part model.

Results Direct costs of short-term sickness absences were on average €9057 (standard deviation €11 858) per employee over the follow-up. Those with ≥3 risk factors had €3266 [95% confidence interval (95% CI) €2114–4417] higher direct costs for the employer over the follow-up compared to those without any risk factors.

Conclusions Unhealthy lifestyle and sleep problems may increase the costs of short-term sickness absence to the employer by 10–30%. Consequently, programs addressing lifestyle and sleep may yield to significant savings.

This article refers to the following text of the Journal: 2012;38(6):582-589
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