Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation

, Volume 23, Issue 3, pp 309–317 | Cite as

The Associations Between Personality Characteristics and Absenteeism: A Cross-Sectional Study in Workers With and Without Depressive and Anxiety Disorders

  • Moniek C. Vlasveld
  • Christina M. van der Feltz-Cornelis
  • Johannes R. Anema
  • Willem van Mechelen
  • Aartjan T. F. Beekman
  • Harm W. J. van Marwijk
  • Brenda W. J. H. Penninx


Purpose Although numerous studies have identified risk factors for sickness absence, few studies have addressed the role of personality characteristics in absenteeism. The aim of this study was to examine the associations of the Big 5 personality characteristics (neuroticism, extraversion, openness, agreeableness and conscientiousness) and locus of control with absenteeism, taking the presence of depressive and anxiety disorders into account. Methods Cross-sectional data from the baseline measurement of the Netherlands Study of Depression and Anxiety (NESDA) were examined. NESDA includes persons with current or remitted depressive and anxiety disorders and healthy controls, of which 1883 working participants were selected. Personality characteristics were included as predictor variables, short-term (0–2 weeks) and long-term (>2 weeks) absenteeism as outcome measure. The presence of depressive and anxiety disorders was considered as modifying covariate. Results In healthy workers, high neuroticism, external locus of control, low extraversion, low agreeableness and low conscientiousness were associated with short-term absenteeism. In addition, high neuroticism, low extraversion and low openness were related to long-term absenteeism in healthy workers. In workers with psychopathology, similar associations were found for persons with this profile (high neuroticism, external locus of control, low extraversion and low conscientiousness) with long-term absenteeism, but no associations of these characteristics were found with short-term absenteeism. Conclusions Personality characteristics were significantly associated with work absenteeism in both workers with and without anxiety or depression. Interventions aimed at preventing sickness absence may focus on reducing neuroticism and strengthening extraversion, conscientiousness and locus of control.


Depressive disorder Anxiety disorder Absenteeism Personality characteristics 



The infrastructure for the NESDA study ( is funded through the Geestkracht program of the Netherlands Organisation for Health Research and Development (Zon-Mw, grant number 10-000-1002) and is supported by participating universities and mental health care organizations (VU University Medical Center, GGZ inGeest, Arkin, Leiden University Medical Center, GGZ Rivierduinen, University Medical Center Groningen, Lentis, GGZ Friesland, GGZ Drenthe, Scientific Institute for Quality of Healthcare (IQ healthcare), Netherlands Institute for Health Services Research (NIVEL) and Netherlands Institute of Mental Health and Addiction (Trimbos). Furthermore, we would like to thank Inger Plaisier from the VU University, for her support in selecting the data.

Conflict of interest

M.C. Vlasveld: None. C. M. van der Feltz-Cornelis: The Trimbos-institute received funding for the study from the Foundation for Innovation of Health Insurers (‘Innovatiefonds Zorgverzekeraars’), received payment for a presentation at the IJIC conference, received grants for Collaborative Care trials for anxiety (from the Netherlands organisation for health research and development, ‘ZonMw’) and for return to work (from Achmea), and received a payment from Eli Lilly for a lecture on diabetes and depression. C. M. van der Feltz-Cornelis received royalties for books on psychiatry. J.R. Anema: J.R. Anema is shareholder of a VU University Medical Center spin-off company, Evalua Nederland B.V. ( W. van Mechelen: W. van Mechelen is director-shareholder of a VU University Medical Center spin-off company, Evalua Nederland B.V. ( A.T.F. Beekman: A.T.F. Beekman received grants for research support from Eli Lilly, Astra Zeneca, Jansen, and Shire; and as a speaker from Eli Lilly and Lundbeck. H. W. J. van Marwijk: None. B. W. J. H. Penninx: None.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Moniek C. Vlasveld
    • 1
    • 2
  • Christina M. van der Feltz-Cornelis
    • 1
    • 3
    • 4
  • Johannes R. Anema
    • 2
    • 5
  • Willem van Mechelen
    • 2
    • 5
  • Aartjan T. F. Beekman
    • 6
  • Harm W. J. van Marwijk
    • 8
  • Brenda W. J. H. Penninx
    • 7
    • 9
    • 10
  1. 1.Diagnostics and TreatmentNetherlands Institute of Mental Health and Addiction, the Trimbos-instituteUtrechtThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Department of Public and Occupational HealthVU University Medical Center, The EMGO Institute for Health and Care ResearchAmsterdamThe Netherlands
  3. 3.Department of TranzoUniversity of TilburgTilburgThe Netherlands
  4. 4.GGZ BreburgTilburgThe Netherlands
  5. 5.Research Center for Insurance Medicine AMC-UMCG-UWV-VUmcAmsterdamThe Netherlands
  6. 6.GGZinGeest, Amsterdam, The Netherlands and Department of PsychiatryEMGO Institute for Health and Care Research, VU University Medical CenterAmsterdamThe Netherlands
  7. 7.Department of PsychiatryEMGO Institute for Health and Care Research, VU University Medical CenterAmsterdamThe Netherlands
  8. 8.Department of General PracticeVU University Medical CenterAmsterdamThe Netherlands
  9. 9.Department of PsychiatryUniversity Medical Center Groningen, University of GroningenGroningenThe Netherlands
  10. 10.Department of PsychiatryLeiden University Medical CenterLeidenThe Netherlands

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