Repeatedly going to work when ill significantly raises the chances of long-term sick leave later in life, according to a new study.
The trend, called "sickness presence", is becoming increasingly common as staff fear for their jobs during the recession.
In order to study the long-term impact of the behaviour, researchers randomly selected almost 12,000 Danes of working age, who had been in continuous employment for at least a year.
The participants had to answer questions on their attitudes to work, preparedness to take time off when ill, and general health.
They were asked how many times in the preceding year they had gone to work ill when it would have been reasonable to have stayed at home.
The researchers then combined their responses with official records detailing periods of sick leave taken, and lasting at least a fortnight, over the next 18 months.
Poor general health, a heavy workload, work-family life conflicts, a good level of social support, holding a senior post, and obesity featured most often among those who repeatedly came to work, despite being ill.
They found that workers who had done this at least half a dozen times were 53 percent more likely to end up going off sick for two weeks, and 74 percent more likely to take more than two months of sick leave, as against those who did not come to work when ill.
The findings were found to be true even after the researchers took into account known risk factors for long-term sick leave, previous bouts of lengthy sickness absence, and prevailing health.
The authors said that short periods off sick may allow workers to cope better with the stresses of a demanding job, and, overall, the evidence is that employment is good for health.
But they warned that long-term sick leave is associated with difficulties finding work.
The study was published ahead of print in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.