Absence from workA question of attitude?Results from the IPAW* study* Intervention Project on Absence and Well-being T. S. Kristensen, L. Smith-Hansen & M. L. Nielsen National Institute of Occupational HealthCopenhagen, Denmark
The normal model of absence from work Work environment Non-work environment Sickness Sickness absence
The simple model assumes: • that it is simple to distinguish between good health and sickness • that sickness (automatically) leads to absence from work Both of these assumptions are questionable
When is a person sick? • Two problems: • where should we draw the line? • what about inconsistent patterns?
Perhaps the person’s attitude plays a role when the person decides to have or not to have sickness absence? Attitude Health Absence
Results • With regard to absence days the expected pattern is found in 10 out of 14 comparisons (7 items, 2 years). One item shows the opposite pattern: “Children have a day off”. • With regard to absence periods the expected pattern is found in all 14 comparisons. • The average “excess risk” of absence is approx. 10% for absence days and 20% for absence periods among those with positive attitudes to absence.
1996 1997 Association between absence days and overall attitude to absence Days/year 16.0 16.0 16 14.5 15.2 14 13.4 14.2 12 12.2 11.7 10 8 Very Very negative positive N=1676
1996 1997 Association between absence periods and overall attitude to absence Periods/year 3.5 3.5 3.3 3.3 3.0 3.0 2.5 2.5 2.2 2.5 2.0 2.1 Very Very negative positive N=1676
Conclusions • There is no clear consensus among employees about the issue of sickness and absence. This means that there is an element of choice in absence behaviour, and that attitude plays a role. • Those with a positive attitude to absence have slightly more absence days and clearly more absence periods.