Who is at risk for long-term sickness absence? A prospective cohort study of Danish employees

Work. 2007;28(3):225-30.


Aim: The aim of this study was to identify who is at risk for long-term sickness absence according to occupation, gender, education, age, business sector, agency size and ownership.

Methods: The study is based on a sample of 5357 employees aged 18-69, interviewed in 2000. The cohort was followed up in a national register from January 1st 2001 to June 30th 2003, to identify cases with sickness absences that exceeded 8 weeks.

Results: During follow-up 486 persons (9.1%) experienced one or more periods of absence that exceeded 8 weeks. Higher risk of long-term sickness absence was associated with gender, age, educational level, and the municipal employment sector. Kindergarten teachers and people employed in day care, health care, janitorial work, food preparation, and unskilled workers were at greatest risk. Managers, computer professionals, technicians and designers, and professionals had lower risks. The health care and social service sectors were also in the high risk category, whereas the private administration sector had a lower risk.

Conclusions: The study identifies specific occupational target populations and documents the need to perform job-specific research and tailor interventions if the intended policy of decreasing long-term sickness absence within the Danish labour market is to be realized.

MeSH terms

  • Absenteeism*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cohort Studies
  • Denmark
  • Educational Status
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Assessment
  • Sick Leave*
  • Time