Original article

Scand J Work Environ Health 2022;48(7):560-568    pdf full text

doi:10.5271/sjweh.4036 | Published online: 14 Jun 2022, Issue date: 01 Sep 2022

Chronic disorders, work-unit leadership quality and long-term sickness absence among 33 025 public hospital employees

by Mehta AJ, Mathisen J, Nguyen T-L, Rugulies R, Hulvej Rod N

Objective This study aimed to examine the association between work-unit level leadership quality and individual-level long-term sickness absence (LTSA) in the hospital sector and effect modification by chronic disorders.

Methods This longitudinal analysis included 33 025 Danish public hospital employees who were followed-up for one year after baseline in March 2014. Leadership quality was assessed by questionnaire with mean responses aggregated by work-unit and characterized in tertiles. LTSA during follow-up was determined from employer records. Chronic disorders at baseline was assessed from the Danish hospital and prescription registers. We performed multilevel logistic regression to estimate odds ratios (OR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) adjusting for potential confounders. We evaluated interaction between chronic illness and low leadership quality on multiplicative and additive scales.

Results We identified employees as healthy (60.8%) or with somatic (31.6%), mental (3.3%), or both somatic and mental (4.3%) disorders. During follow-up, 6% of employees registered a LTSA. Medium and high leadership quality were associated with lower risk of LTSA with OR of 0.84 (95% CI 0.76–0.94) and 0.73 (95% CI 0.65–0.82) respectively, compared to low leadership quality. Associations were similar for healthy employees and employees with only somatic disorders, whereas no association was observed for employees with mental disorders (in presence or absence of somatic disorders). No statistically significant (α=0.05) interactions between leadership quality and chronic disorders on LTSA were observed.

Conclusion The findings suggest that the quality of leadership in work units is associated with risk of long-term sick leave in the Danish public hospital sector and that strong leadership protects employees against LTSA.

This article refers to the following texts of the Journal: 2021;47(6):456-465  2017;43(2):146-154  2013;39(5):477-485
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