Background: This study aimed to determine to what extent different forms of mental disorders are related to an increased likelihood of sickness absence and whether this increase depends on the employee's sex.
Methods: Data of 3,695 employed persons aged 18-64 years from a national sample of the Dutch population were derived from the first two waves of the Netherlands Mental Health Survey and Incidence Study (NEMESIS). Mental disorders (DSM-III-R) in the past 12 months were assessed at baseline (1996). Subsequent sickness absence was assessed at the follow-up 1 year later. Somatic illnesses and age were included as controlled confounders.
Results: Major depressive disorder, dysthymia, simple phobia and drug abuse/dependence were predictive of sickness absence in men. In women, the associations were weaker, and none of the 1-year DSM-III-R disorders was significantly related to the likelihood of sickness absence.
Conclusions: Mental disorders are a more important risk factor for sickness absence for male employees than for female employees. Knowledge of this sex difference can be valuable for the development of interventions aiming at reducing sickness absence rates due to mental illness.