Risk factors of long-term sickness absence in Norway and Sweden
Keywords:Long-term sickness absence, risk factors, survey, Norway, Sweden, logistic regression
Aims: This paper examines the level of long-term sickness absence (LTSA) in Norway and Sweden. It also investigates whether risk factors of LTSA are the same in Norway and Sweden.
Methods: More than 2500 Norwegian and Swedish workers between 20 and 60 years of age answered a postal questionnaire. The Norwegian and Swedish samples are weighted and representative with regard to regional background variables and demographic background variables, but the response rate was low. LTSA is defined as 15 days or more sickness absence in the previous year. Binary logistic regression is used to detect which factors influence LTSA. The analyses of LTSA include demographic factors, socio-economic position, and occupational characteristics.
Results: Nineteen per cent of respondents in Norway and 11 per cent of respondents in Sweden experienced LTSA in the previous year. Many respondents from Sweden report mental problems and many Norwegian respondents report pain in back, neck, knuckles, and muscles. Income level is the most important predictor of LTSA in both countries. The direct impacts of gender, age, and physical work conditions are stronger in Norway than Sweden.
Discussion: In accordance with official statistics and previous studies, the proportion of Norwegian respondents with LTSA is much higher than the proportion of Swedish respondents. The different levels of LTSA could be linked to differences in social policy. In line with previous studies, respondents with low income are overrepresented with LTSA, and gender, age, and physical work also matter. In contrast to previous studies, there is not any evidence of higher levels of LTSA among non-western immigrants, people with less education, and non-managers. These results reflect the control for ‘income level’, but they could also be related to limits with the survey (non-response, response bias, etc.).
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