Perceived organizational justice as a predictor of long-term sickness absence due to diagnosed mental disorders: results from the prospective longitudinal Finnish Public Sector Study

Soc Sci Med. 2013 Aug;91:39-47. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2013.05.008. Epub 2013 May 16.


Organizational justice perceptions have been suggested to be associated with symptoms of mental health but the nature of the association is unknown due to reporting bias (measurement error related to response style and reversed causality). In this study, we used prospective design and long-term (>9 days) sickness absence with psychiatric diagnosis as the outcome measure. Participants were 21,221 Finnish public sector employees (the participation rate at baseline in 2000-2002 68%), who responded to repeated surveys of procedural and interactional justice in 2000-2004 along with register data on sickness absence with a diagnosis of depression or anxiety disorders (822 cases). Results from logistic regression analyses showed that a one-unit increase in self-reported and work-unit level co-worker assessed interactional justice was associated with a 25-32% lower odds of sickness absence due to anxiety disorders. These associations were robust to adjustments for a variety of potential individual-level confounders including chronic disease (adjusted OR for self-reported interactional justice 0.77, 95% CI 0.65-0.91) and were replicated using co-worker assessed justice. Only weak evidence of reversed causality was found. The results suggest that low organizational justice is a risk factor for sickness absence due to anxiety disorders.

Keywords: Employees; Finland; Mental disorders; Organizational justice; Public sector; Sickness absence.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anxiety Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Data Collection
  • Depression / diagnosis*
  • Employment / psychology*
  • Female
  • Finland
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Organizational Culture
  • Prospective Studies
  • Public Sector / organization & administration*
  • Registries
  • Risk Factors
  • Sick Leave / statistics & numerical data*
  • Social Justice / psychology*