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01.12.2015 | Research article | Ausgabe 1/2016 Open Access

BMC Public Health 1/2016

Exposure to different lengths of sick leave and subsequent work absence among young adults

BMC Public Health > Ausgabe 1/2016
Magnus Helgesson, Bo Johansson, Lisa Wernroth, Eva Vingård
Wichtige Hinweise

Competing interests

The author(s) declare that they have no competing interests.

Authors’ contributions

MH, EV and BJ participated in the design and performance of the study. LW participated in the design of the study and performed the statistical analysis in cooperation with MH. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.



Sweden has a public and easily accessible sickness insurance. Research shows, however, downsides to taking sick leave. Both short and longer periods of sick leave have been seen to increase the risk for subsequent work absence. The aim of this study was to investigate whether there was an association between sick leave claimed in 1993 and work absence in the subsequent 15 years, i.e. up to 2008. A further aim was to explore differences in this relation with regard to gender, origin and educational level at baseline.


Our cohort consisted of all immigrants aged 21–25 years in Sweden in 1993 and a control group of native Swedes in the same age group.


Subsequent work absence increased from 313 days among persons with no days of claimed sick leave in 1993 to 567 days among persons with 1–7 days of claimed sick leave in 1993. Thereafter there was a lower, but steady increase in days of future work absence, to 611 days among persons with 8–14 days of sick leave claimed in 1993. There was an interaction between sick leave and gender, education and origin respectively regarding later work absence.


Periods of sick leave claimed were associated with subsequent work absence. Immigrants, women and persons with low education had the most risk of future work absence after a period of sick leave.
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