How to measure sickness absence? Literature review and suggestion of five basic measures

Scand J Soc Med. 1998 Jun;26(2):133-44. doi: 10.1177/14034948980260020201.


Objective: To examine different sick-leave measures used in sickness absence research, and to suggest a systematic way of assessing sickness absence.

Methods: A review and analysis of five major studies on sick-leave performed 1983-1988 with an epidemiological approach.

Results: Terminology and measures used varied in the different studies reviewed. The choice of a certain measure was seldom discussed in relation to the aim of the study. Based on the review five measures are suggested: frequency, length, incidence rate, cumulative incidence and duration. The definition of incidence rate is new and is a measure useful in studies of recurrent events within epidemiology.

Conclusions: We have reviewed sick-leave measures previously used in the literature and suggested five basic measures for assessing sick-leave.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Absenteeism*
  • Disability Evaluation*
  • Epidemiologic Methods
  • Humans
  • Recurrence
  • Sick Leave / statistics & numerical data*