Aim: To investigate the associations between psychosocial and physical work environment exposures and sickness absence from work taking into account health, health behaviour and employer characteristics known to affect sickness absence.
Methods: In 1995, a random sample of 5574 employees aged 18-64 years were interviewed. In 2000, 3792 of those still employed supplied data on days absent from work the year preceding the date of follow-up. Associations between risk factors at baseline and sickness absence at follow-up were studied. Logistic regression analyses were performed.
Results: Sickness absence was associated with working with arms lifted/hands twisted, extreme bending/stooping of the back/neck, repetitive monotonous work, low skill discretion, low decision authority, obesity, current and former smoking, poor self-rated health, female gender, increasing age and public employer. The aetiological fraction attributable to differences in work environment exposures was calculated to be 40%.
Conclusion: The study suggests a potential for reducing sickness absence through multifactorial interventions towards smoking, obesity, physical and psychosocial work environment exposures. The study showed that differences in work environment exposures account for 40% of the cases of high sickness absence.