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Women Have More Frequent Short Sickness Work Absences

But, in Finnish study, genders take similar long-term work absences due to illness

WEDNESDAY, Feb. 6 (HealthDay News) -- Women took sickness-related leave from work more often than men due to more frequent short absences, but absences of more than 60 days were similar in men and women, according to the results of a study of Finnish workers published online Feb. 5 in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

Mikko Laaksonen, Ph.D., of the University of Helsinki in Finland, and colleagues conducted a baseline survey in 2000 to 2002 of 5,470 female and 1,464 male Helsinki city employees, all aged 40 to 60 years, then assessed workers' self-reported and medically confirmed absences through 2005.

Women had 46 percent greater likelihood of self-reported sickness absences than men, and also more medically confirmed absences. The gender differences were greatest in short absences, shrank for absences of more than two weeks, and disappeared for absences of more than 60 days. The differences were explained by poor physical functioning, diagnosed diseases, physical work demands and work fatigue. The researchers found no evidence that job strain or other psychosocial working factors explained the extra amount of women's sickness-related absences.

"Longer sickness absence spells are likely to better indicate chronic morbidity, while shorter absence spells are likely to reflect minor transient morbidity and causes other than health," the authors write.

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