The influence of household work and of having children on sickness absence among publicly employed women in Sweden

Scand J Public Health. 2008 Aug;36(6):564-72. doi: 10.1177/1403494807088459.


Aim: To investigate whether family obligations influence the risk of sickness absence among female municipal employees in Sweden.

Methods: A 1-year prospective cohort study of 1464 female municipal employees <50 years of age in Sweden in 2000 was conducted using questionnaire responses and absence data from the employers' personnel records. The relative risk of having children <16 years of age in the home, marital status, household work, financial situation, working hours and work-family conflicts for repeated sick-leave spells (>or=4 spells) and long-term sickness absence (>or=28 days) were calculated by applying Poisson regression models.

Results: Women reporting financial strain or work-family conflicts were at elevated risk for long-term sickness absence. Having children was not a risk factor for repeated sick-leave spells or long-term sickness absence among married/cohabiting women. Single women with children had a two-fold greater risk of repeated sick-leave spells than single women without children.

Conclusions: The findings suggest that the combination of gainful employment and children does not influence the risk of repeated sick-leave spells or long-term sickness absence among married/cohabiting publicly employed women. However, this was not true for single women with children, which indicates that their circumstances are particularly strained.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cohort Studies
  • Family Characteristics
  • Family Conflict
  • Female
  • Household Work
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Parenting
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Sick Leave*
  • Single Parent / psychology
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Sweden / epidemiology
  • Women, Working* / psychology