Occupational stress, physician-excused absences, and absences not excused by a physician

Am J Health Promot. Nov-Dec 1995;10(2):117-24. doi: 10.4278/0890-1171-10.2.117.


Purpose: This study explores two possible mechanisms through which occupational stress is linked to absenteeism. The extent to which physician-excused absenteeism and absenteeism not excused by a physician are related to employee reports of perceived stress is assessed.

Design: A plant wide survey was conducted in January 1990. Employee reports of occupational stress gained from this survey were linked with 1990 absenteeism data from the employees' records.

Setting: A mid-sized manufacturing plant.

Sample: Complete data were available for 998 of the 1534 (65%) unionized employees in the plant.

Measures: Measures of both physician-excused absences and absences not excused by a physician were created. Stressors included role ambiguity, lack of control over work pace, and being paid on a piece-rate basis. Perceived stresses included role conflict, physical environment stresses, and overall work stress.

Results: For physician-excused absenteeism, role conflict (OR, 1.54, p < .01), overall work stress (OR, 1.24, p < .05), and physical environment stress (OR, 1.34, p < .05) had significantly elevated odds ratios, even after adjusting for demographics. For absences not excused by a physician, none of the stressors or stresses had significant odds ratios after controlling for demographic characteristics.

Conclusions: Employees in this plant were not using short-term voluntary absenteeism as a way of coping with work stress. However, high levels of perceived work stress were associated with subsequent physician-excused absences.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Absenteeism*
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Midwestern United States / epidemiology
  • Occupational Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Occupational Diseases / etiology
  • Occupational Diseases / psychology
  • Odds Ratio
  • Physicians
  • Research Design
  • Stress, Psychological / epidemiology*
  • Stress, Psychological / etiology
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology