Factors affecting sickness absence from work
Harper, Alison Anne
The Whitehall studjes include a series of papers by Stansfeld et al (1995, I997a, 1997b) that examine factors predicting sickness absence from work. These include psychological and physical well-being, social support and chronic stressors, including work-related stress.Psychological ill-health is particularly important in terms of sickness absence. It is thought to account for one third of sickness absence (Jenkins, 1985), often results in repeated absences (Taylor, 1968; Ferguson, 1972) and contributes to long spells of certified absence (Stansfeld et al, I 995). Somatisation of emotional distress highlights the fact that psychological ill-health may be an important contributory factor in absenteeism, even where this is c ited as due to physical symptoms.This study aimed to examine factors affecting sickness absence in one industrial workplace. There were 910 employees within the factory at the time of the study. Absence data was collected over a ten-month period for 8 I 0 of these workers. Approximately 200 workers had indices of physical fitness assessed as part of a health screening initiative and 166 employees completed questionnaires evaluating quality of life, attitudes towards work and psychological well-being. Interrelationships amongst these factors are examined. The relationship of these factors to sickness absence is also explored, as is the relationship between sickness absence and other demographic variables, such as gender and grade of employment. Results are discussed with reference to previous research findings.