Genetic susceptibility to sickness absence is similar among women and men: findings from a Swedish twin cohort

Twin Res Hum Genet. 2012 Oct;15(5):642-8. doi: 10.1017/thg.2012.47.


Previous studies of risk factors for sickness absence (SA) focus primarily on psychosocial and work environmental exposures. The aim of this study was to investigate the relative contribution of genetic influences on SA among women and men. The population-based study sample of Swedish twins (34,547) included 13,743 twin pairs of known zygosity, 3,495 monozygotic, 5,073 same-sexed dizygotic, and 5,175 opposite sexed. The point prevalence of long-term SA (≥15 days) in each zygosity and sex group was calculated. The risk of SA was estimated as an odds ratio (OR) with 95% confidence intervals (CI) where the odds for twins on SA to have a co-twin on SA was compared to the OR for SA in twins whose co-twin were not sickness absent. Intrapair correlations and probandwise concordance rates were calculated and standard biometrical genetic model-fitting methods were used to estimate the heritability of SA. The prevalence of SA was 8.8% (women 10.7%; men 6.5%). Intrapair similarity was higher among monozygotic than dizygotic twin pairs. The best-fitting model showed no sex differences in genetic effects or variance components contributing to SA. The heritability estimate was 36% (95% CI: 35-40%). Results suggest genetic contribution to the variation of SA and that environmental factors have an important role, for women and men. As SA seem to be influenced by genetic factors, future studies of associations between risk factors and SA should consider this potentially confounding effect.

Publication types

  • Twin Study

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Diseases in Twins / epidemiology
  • Diseases in Twins / genetics
  • Female
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Odds Ratio
  • Risk Factors
  • Sick Leave / statistics & numerical data*
  • Sweden
  • Twins, Dizygotic / genetics
  • Twins, Monozygotic / genetics