Sickness absence and psychosocial job quality: an analysis from a longitudinal survey of working Australians, 2005-2012

Am J Epidemiol. 2015 May 15;181(10):781-8. doi: 10.1093/aje/kwu355. Epub 2015 Apr 3.


Sickness absence is associated with adverse health, organizational, and societal outcomes. Using data from a longitudinal cohort study of working Australians (the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) Survey), we examined the relationship between changes in individuals' overall psychosocial job quality and variation in sickness absence. The outcome variables were paid sickness absence (yes/no) and number of days of paid sickness absence in the past year (2005-2012). The main exposure variable was psychosocial job quality, measured using a psychosocial job quality index (levels of job control, demands and complexity, insecurity, and perceptions of unfair pay). Analysis was conducted using longitudinal fixed-effects logistic regression models and negative binomial regression models. There was a dose-response relationship between the number of psychosocial job stressors reported by an individual and the odds of paid sickness absence (1 adversity: odds ratio (OR) = 1.26, 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.09, 1.45 (P = 0.002); 2 adversities: OR = 1.28, 95% CI: 1.09, 1.51 (P = 0.002); ≥3 adversities: OR = 1.58, 95% CI: 1.29, 1.94 (P < 0.001)). The negative binomial regression models also indicated that respondents reported a greater number of days of sickness absence in response to worsening psychosocial job quality. These results suggest that workplace interventions aiming to improve the quality of work could help reduce sickness absence.

Keywords: cohort studies; employment; job quality; job stressors; psychosocial factors; sickness absence.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Absenteeism*
  • Adult
  • Australia
  • Employment / psychology*
  • Employment / standards
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Job Satisfaction*
  • Logistic Models
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Sick Leave / statistics & numerical data