Impact of hypothetical improvements in the psychosocial work environment on sickness absence rates: a simulation study

Jimmi Mathisen, Tri-Long Nguyen, Johan H Jensen, Amar J Mehta, Reiner Rugulies, Naja H Rod

7 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

BACKGROUND: The association between psychosocial working environments and sickness absence is well-known. However, the potential for reducing sickness absences of different lengths through improvements in psychosocial work factors is not fully understood. We aim to quantify the potential for reducing short-, intermediate- and long-term sickness absence rates, respectively, through hypothetical improvements in several psychosocial work factors.

METHODS: This longitudinal study includes 24 990 public hospital employees from the 2014 wave of the Well-being in Hospital Employees study. The 1-year sickness absence rate was divided into short- (1-3 days), intermediate- (4-28 days) and long-term (29 days or more) periods. We simulated hypothetical scenarios with improvements in 17 psychosocial work factors using the parametric g-formula and estimated resulting changes in sickness absence rate ratios (RRs) with 95% confidence intervals (95% CIs).

RESULTS: Setting all 17 psychosocial work factors to their most desirable levels (vs. least desirable levels) was associated with an overall 54% lower rate of sickness absence (95% CI: 48-60%). Reducing bullying (no vs. yes RR: 0.86, 95% CI: 0.83-0.90) and perceived stress (low vs. high RR: 0.90, 95% CI: 0.87-0.92), and increasing skill discretion (high vs. low RR: 0.91, 95% CI: 0.89-0.94) held the largest potential for reducing the total sickness absence rate. Overall, associations were similar for short-, intermediate- and long-term sickness absence.

CONCLUSIONS: The psychosocial working environment was strongly associated with sickness absence. Improving the working environment may have a great impact on short-, intermediate- and long-term sickness absence rates.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Journal of Public Health
Volume32
Issue number5
Pages (from-to)716-722
Number of pages7
ISSN1101-1262
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 3 Oct 2022

Keywords

  • Absenteeism
  • Bullying
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Sick Leave
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Workplace/psychology

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