Sick leaves are times when workers can stay home to address their health and safety needs without losing out on pay. A new research has suggested that high job demands combined with low levels of social support at work put employees, especially women, at an increased risk of sick leave due to mental disorders.
One of the researchers Lisa Mater from the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden said, "Interventions to reduce sick leave due to mental disorders that focus on improving the psychosocial work environment, especially reducing high psychosocial job demands, may prove effective."
The research team used data from a Swedish national study to examine how rates of sick leave for mental health reasons are affected by psychosocial factors at work. After a five-year follow-up of nearly 12,000 workers, the rate of sick leave due to mental disorders was about 8%. The findings showed that three-fourths of workers with mental health sick leave were women.
The researchers also pointed out that workers with multiple unhealthy behavior also had higher rates of mental health sick leave. They found that while smoking was a significant risk factor, high physical activity level was a protective factor. However, the researchers suggested that efforts aimed at improving health behavior only, without also addressing the work environment, may be less likely to reduce mental health sick leave.
The study is published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.