A meta-analysis of observational studies identifies predictors of sickness absence

Saskia F.A. Duijts, Ijmert Kant, Gerard M.H. Swaen, Piet A. van den Brandt, Maurice P.A. Zeegers

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199 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: About one in every three employees seen by their occupational physician is absent from work because of psychosocial health complaints. To implement preventive measures, it is necessary to identify predictors for this type of sickness absence. Study Design and Setting: A meta-analysis was carried out to quantify the association between predictive factors and psychosocial sickness absence and to assess clinical outcomes and heterogeneity. Eligible for inclusion were prospective studies that examined this association and provided sufficient information to estimate summary odds ratios (SORs). Results: Twenty prospective studies were included. Significant SORs for sick leave >3 days were found for being unmarried, 1.37 (95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.15-1.64), experiencing psychosomatic complaints, 1.79 (95% CI = 1.54-2.07), using medication, 3.13 (95% CI = 1.71-5.72), having a burnout, 2.34 (95% CI = 1.59-3.45), suffering from psychological problems, 1.97 (95% CI = 1.37-2.85), having low job control, 1.28 (95% CI = 1.23-1.33), having low decision latitude, 1.33 (95% CI = 1.16-1.56), and experiencing no fairness at work, 1.30 (95% CI = 1.18-1.45). Conclusion: This study shows that predictors of sickness absence can be identified in a homogeneous manner. The results provide leads to public health interventions to successfully improve psychosocial health and to reduce sickness absence.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1105-1115
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Clinical Epidemiology
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2007


  • Meta-analysis
  • Observational
  • Predictor
  • Sickness absence

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