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04 May 2009

Going to work sick affects health

Repeatedly going to work when you're down with the flu or other illness, perhaps because of job insecurity, might be bad for your health in the long run, a new study suggests.

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Repeatedly going to work when you're down with the flu or other illness, perhaps because of job insecurity, might be bad for your health in the long run, a new study suggests.

"In our study, we found that those who reported having gone to work despite feeling so ill that it would have been reasonable to have stayed home, had an increased risk of becoming sick-listed for a longer period in the following year," said Claus D. Hansen.

Workers who don't take a sick day now and again, when they are sick, risk having a lengthier spell of sick leave down the road, perhaps because they don't give their body the time it needs to get better, explained Hansen, with the department of occupational medicine, Herning Hospital, Denmark.

The findings are based on almost 12 000 Danish workers employed continuously for at least one year who answered questions on work, family and attitudes about going to work while sick versus staying home.

What the study found
Compared to workers who said they did not go to work sick, workers who said they went to work sick more than six times in a year were 53% more likely to end up being out sick for at least two weeks later on, and 74% more likely to have a sick spell lasting more than two months.

The current study, Hansen said, corresponds with an earlier study from the UK. In that study, men who rated their health as poor and in a three-year period took no days off at all, had twice the risk of experiencing a serious heart problem compared to those men who also rated their health as poor but took between one and 14 days off in the same period.

Employees, Hansen said, should "think twice before going to work when feeling ill and they should definitely not do so many times in a row during a year".

The message for employers, Hansen said, is that "while it is certainly best for a company to have as low rates of absence as possible, it might be a better investment for your firm to be more lax on the short periods of absences as they may serve as a way for employees to prevent getting more seriously ill at a later date".

Many insecure about jobs got to work sick
Time away from work is of "special interest in these days where a lot of people are laid off because of the financial crisis, and where even more people are afraid that they might be the next to lose their jobs," Hansen noted.

Other studies have shown that job insecurity is associated with higher rates of employees going to work despite ill health. "Everyone should be particularly observant of the possible detrimental effects of going to work sick in these times of rising unemployment rates," Hansen said. – (Reuters Health, May 2009)

Read more:
Flu biggest cause of absenteeism
More SA workers sick with stress

 
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