Original article

Scand J Work Environ Health 2014;40(2):176-185    pdf full text

https://doi.org/10.5271/sjweh.3401 | Published online: 15 Nov 2013, Issue date: 01 Mar 2014

A multi-wave study of organizational justice at work and long-term sickness absence among employees with depressive symptoms

by Hjarsbech PU, Christensen KB, Bjorner JB, Madsen IEH, Thorsen SV, Carneiro IG, Christensen U, Rugulies R

Objectives Mental health problems are strong predictors of long-term sickness absence (LTSA). In this study, we investigated whether organizational justice at work – fairness in resolving conflicts and distributing work – prevents risk of LTSA among employees with depressive symptoms.

Methods In a longitudinal study with five waves of data collection, we examined a cohort of 1034 employees with depressive symptoms. Depressive symptoms and organizational justice were assessed by self-administered questionnaires and information on LTSA was derived from a national register. Using Poisson regression analyses, we calculated rate ratios (RR) for the prospective association of organizational justice and change in organizational justice with time to onset of LTSA. All analyses were sex stratified.

Results Among men, intermediate levels of organizational justice were statistically significantly associated with a decreased risk of subsequent LTSA after adjustment for covariates [RR 0.49, 95% confidence interval (95% CI) 0.26–0.91]. There was also a decreased risk for men with high levels of organizational justice although these estimates did not reach statistical significance after adjustment (RR 0.47, 95% CI 0.20–1.10). We found no such results for women. In both sexes, neither favorable nor adverse changes in organizational justice were statistically significantly associated with the risk of LTSA.

Conclusions This study shows that organizational justice may have a protective effect on the risk of LTSA among men with depressive symptoms. A protective effect of favorable changes in organizational justice was not found.

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