Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Coming to work sick is hazardous to your health

Am J Public Health. 2005 Jan;95(1):98-102.

Working While Ill as a Risk Factor for Serious Coronary Events: The Whitehall II Study.

Kivimaki M, Head J, Ferrie JE, Hemingway H, Shipley MJ, Vahtera J, Marmot MG.

Department of Psychology, Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, Topeliuksenkatu 41 aA, FIN-00250 Helsinki, Finland. mika.kivimaki@ttl.fi.

Do people who come to work sick suffer an increased incidence of serious coronary events? Analyses were based on a cohort of 5071 male British civil servants without previous myocardial infarction. Absence records were assessed for the 3 years subsequent to baseline screening.
The investigators counted incident nonfatal myocardial infarction or fatal coronary heart disease for an average of 9 years. Seventeen percent of unhealthy employees took no absence during the 3-year follow-up. Their incidence of serious coronary events was twice as high as that of the unhealthy employees with moderate levels of sickness absenteeism. The investigators concluded that employers and employees should be aware of the potential harmful effects caused by coming to work sick.

BrooklynDodger wonders whether the men in this study who stayed home from work when sick also had greater propensity to seek medical care when ill generally, and this prolonged their lives. The Dodger regrets there is no data on women. Women workers are known to suffer more sickness absence while active employees than men, and then live longer after they retire. Some colleagues believe that staying home from work and seeing the doctor when sick may prolong life.

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