Work-family interference and long-term sickness absence: a longitudinal cohort study

Eur J Public Health. 2010 Dec;20(6):676-81. doi: 10.1093/eurpub/ckp201. Epub 2009 Dec 15.


Background: Alongside work environment factors, interference between work and domestic life has been proposed as an important explanation for long-term sickness absence, particularly for women. The aim was to investigate the association between work-to-family interference, family-to-work interference and long-term sickness absence among women and men in different family- and work-related settings.

Methods: The study population was a random sample of 2867 gainfully employed adults in Sweden aged 25-50. In 2004, telephone interview data were collected that included questions about family, work and health. The outcome measure was having at least one spell of long-term sickness absence (>14 days) in 2005 based on social insurance register data. Associations were analysed by logistic regression.

Results: Work-to-family interference was more common than family-to-work interference and more often reported by women. The overall associations with long-term sickness absence were weak. However, after adjustment for age and self-reported health, work-to-family interference was associated with long-term sick leave among men with higher socioeconomic status (odds ratio 2.87; 95% CI 1.36-6.07), and there was also a tendency to association among women bearing the main responsibility for housework and family (1.59; 0.99-2.54).

Conclusions: These findings suggest that work-to-family interference is associated with long-term sickness absence in the working population, but in a gender- and situation-specific manner. Hence, extensive work responsibilities for men, and probably extensive family responsibilities for women, could hamper the balance between work and family and increase the risk of long-term sick leave. Further studies are warranted within this area.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Conflict, Psychological*
  • Employment* / statistics & numerical data
  • Family Characteristics
  • Family*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Factors
  • Sick Leave / statistics & numerical data*
  • Sweden
  • Women, Working* / statistics & numerical data