Psychosocial factors such as work characteristics, life events, social support, and personality were examined as predictors of the change in medically certified sickness absence observed during a period of severe economic decline. Longitudinal data, derived from self-reports and register-based information relating to 763 local government employees, were collected at 3 points during a 5-year period: before the economic decline, during the nadir of that decline, and immediately after the nadir. After the effects of prior absence and demographic and lifestyle variables had been partialed out, the results of multiple Poisson regression analyses showed that work characteristics play a major role in forthcoming sickness absences. Negative life events and the personality trait sense of coherence (in women) also predicted forthcoming absence rate. Social support did not relate to absences either in men or in women.