Occupational class differences in diagnostic-specific sickness absence: a register-based study in the Finnish population, 2005–2014

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BMC Public Health. 2017 Aug 22;17(1):670

Title: Occupational class differences in diagnostic-specific sickness absence: a register-based study in the Finnish population, 2005–2014
Author: Pekkala, Johanna; Blomgren, Jenni; Pietiläinen, Olli; Lahelma, Eero; Rahkonen, Ossi
Publisher: BioMed Central
Date: 2017-08-22
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10138/216332
Abstract: Abstract Background Musculoskeletal diseases and mental disorders are major causes of long-term sickness absence in Western countries. Although sickness absence is generally more common in lower occupational classes, little is known about class differences in diagnostic-specific absence over time. Focusing on Finland during 2005–2014, we therefore set out to examine the magnitude of and changes in absolute and relative occupational class differences in long-term sickness absence due to major diagnostic causes. Methods A 70-per-cent random sample of Finns aged 25–64 linked to register data on medically certified sickness absence (of over 10 working days) in 2005–2014 was retrieved from the Social Insurance Institution of Finland. Information on occupational class was obtained from Statistics Finland and linked to the data. The study focused on female (n = 658,148–694,142) and male (n = 604,715–642,922) upper and lower non-manual employees and manual workers. The age-standardised prevalence, the Slope Index of Inequality (SII) and the Relative Index of Inequality (RII) were calculated for each study year to facilitate examination of the class differences. Results The prevalence of each diagnostic cause of sickness absence declined during the study period, the most common causes being musculoskeletal diseases, mental disorders and injuries. The prevalence of other causes under scrutiny was less than 1 % annually. By far the largest absolute and relative differences were in musculoskeletal diseases among both women and men. Moreover, the absolute differences in both genders (p < 0.0001) and the relative differences in men (p < 0.0001) narrowed over time as the prevalence declined most among manual workers. Both genders showed modest and stable occupational class differences in mental disorders. In the case of injuries, no major changes occurred in absolute differences but relative differences narrowed over time in men (p < 0.0001) due to a strong decline in prevalence among manual workers. Class differences in the other studied diagnostic causes under scrutiny appeared negligible. Conclusions By far the largest occupational class differences in long-term sickness absence concerned musculoskeletal diseases, followed by injuries. The results highlight potential targets for preventive measures aimed at reducing sickness absence and narrowing class differences in the future.
Subject: Sickness absence
Occupational class
Musculoskeletal diseases
Mental disorders

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