The sick truth
Take Home Messages:
Employees with identifiable health risk factors (and generally poorer health) are more likely to be absent from work due to illness or take a longer absence. These health risk factors include issues such as:
- High body mass index;
- High cholesterol or triglycerides;
- Hypertension; and
- Raised fasting glucose levels.
Interventions targeted at reducing employee health risk factors may be an effective method of decreasing employee illness-related absences.
Why the research matters:
The absence of workers due to illness has a significant impact on workplace productivity.
Identification of factors which contribute to illness-related absences will facilitate the development of workplace interventions which may be effective in reducing employee absences.
What the research involved:
The study looked at a group of 2550 employees working at a Texas petrochemical facility. Data was collected from the company’s Health Surveillance System, and information regarding employee absences was obtained from personnel and payroll systems.
As well as a worker’s health, this research also looked at the impact of age and gender on the rates of employee absences due to illness.
Summary of research findings:
The study found those employees who were likely to have more time off work:
- Were older; or
- Had a greater number of health risk factors.
Employees who had four or more health risk factors were 2.7 times more likely to be absent from work than those who had no identifiable health risk factors. Furthermore, the number of workdays that the employee was absent also increased with the number of risk factors identified;
- Employees with zero health risk factors were absent for an average of 4.1 days per year;
- Those with one health risk were absent for an average of 6.4 days;
- Those with two health risks were absent for an average of 8.8 days;
- Those with three health risks were absent for an average of 9.3 days; and
- Those with four or more health risks were absent for an average of 12.6 days.
The study concluded that employee health risk factors are associated with increasing rates and duration of workplace absences. Interventions targeted at reducing employee health risk factors may be an effective method of decreasing employee illness-related absences and increasing a company’s productivity.
Illness absence patterns among employees in a petrochemical facility: impact of selected health risk factors.
Tsai SP, Wendt JK, Ahmed FS, Donnelly RP, Strawmyer TR.
J Occup Environ Med. 2005 Aug;47(8):838-46.