By Margarita Nahapetyan
People who repeatedly go to work when feeling down with the flu and ill, in general, expose themselves to the risk of poor health in the long run, suggests a new research by Danish investigators.
"In our study, we found that those who reported having gone to work despite feeling so ill that it would have been reasonable to have stayed home had an increased risk of becoming sick-listed for a longer period in the following year," said Claus D. Hansen of the department of occupational medicine at Herning Hospital in Denmark, and added that individuals who do not use their sick days when they really need to, are much more likely to take a long-term sick leave later on, most probably because they do not let their body get the time it needs to get better.
To come up with this conclusion, the experts involved nearly 12,000 Danish individuals who were employed continuously for at least one year. The respondents were asked questions about their job, family and also how many times in the past 12 months they had gone to work while sick versus staying home. It became clear that about 42 per cent had never gone into work feeling ill, or had only done it once. Another 50 per cent had gone to work feeling ill between 2 and 5 times, and 8 per cent had done it six times or more.
Over the next eighteen months, the experts used official data from the Danish welfare department in order to find out how many workers had taken sick leave lasting two weeks or more. They found that the more often people had gone to work when ill, the higher their risk of being off sick for at least two weeks during the study. In comparison with employees who reported that they did not go to work while being sick, employees who said they went to work sick more than six times in a period of one year, were 53 per cent more likely to end up taking a sick leave at least for two weeks later on, and 74 per cent more likely to have a leave that lasted for more than 2 months.
These findings held true even after taking into consideration the known risk factors for long term sick leave, previous bouts of extended absence due to sickness and prevailing health. Poor health, in general, a heavy workload, conflicts in the family, a good level of social support, holding a high position, and obesity featured most often among those who repeatedly came to work, despite being ill.
The current study, Hansen said, supports the findings of an earlier study by British researchers. According to the results of that study, men who rated their health as poor and did not take days off for the period of three days, had twice the risk of developing a serious heart-related issues than those male workers who also rated their health as poor but took between 1 and 14 days off in the same period of time.
Employees, according to the investigators, should "think twice before going to work when feeling ill and they should definitely not do so many times in a row during a year." Short sick leaves may allow individuals to better handle the stresses of a demanding job, and that employees who miss out on time off can store up health problems for the future. What is even more, long term sick leave is associated with difficulties finding a new job, concluded the authors.
The findings were published online in the May issue of the journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.