Original article

Scand J Work Environ Health 2014;40(4):361-369    pdf full text


Work-related gender differences in physician-certified sick leave: a prospective study of the general working population in Norway

by Sterud T

Objectives This study aimed to examine gender differences in physician-certified sick leave and the extent to which these differences can be explained by work-related psychosocial and mechanical risk factors.

Methods Randomly drawn from the general population in Norway, the cohort comprised working men and women aged 18–69 years (N=12 255, response rate at baseline = 60.9%). Eligible respondents were interviewed in 2009 and registered with an active employee relationship of ≥100 actual working days in 2009 and 2010 (N=3688 men and 3070 women). The study measured 11 work-related psychosocial factors and 11 mechanical exposures, and outcomes of interest were physician-certified general sick leave (GSL) >0 days and long-term sick leave (LTSL) ≥40 working days during 2010.

Results Women reported a significantly higher level of exposure to 9 of the 11 psychosocial factors evaluated. For mechanical factors, the reporting was mixed. After controlling for age, educational level, sick leave during 2009, housework, working hours and family status, a 1.7-fold risk for GSL and LTSL were found among women. In comparison with the initial model, adjusting for psychosocial factors reduced the excess risk by 21% and 27% for GSL and LTSL, respectively. The total effect of mechanical factors was negligible. Differences between occupations held by women and men explained an additional one-tenth of the excess risk for LTSL among women.

Conclusions Work-related psychosocial factors contributed significantly to a higher level of GSL and LTSL among women. The most important factors were demands for hiding emotions, emotional demands, and effort–payment imbalance.

This article refers to the following texts of the Journal: 2009;35(5):334-341  1994;20(3):213-215  2010;36(1):34-41  2010;36(5):394-403  2012;38(6):582-589