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Does sickness presenteeism have an impact on future general health?

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The primary aim of this prospective study was to investigate whether working despite illness, so called “sickness presenteeism”, has an impact on the future general health of two different working populations during a follow-up period of 3 years.


The study was based on two bodies of data collected at a number of Swedish workplaces from 1999 to 2003. The first material comprised 6,901 employees from the public sector and the second 2,862 subjects from the private sector. A comprehensive survey was issued three times: at baseline, after 18 months and after 3 years. Apart from the explanatory variable sickness presenteeism, several potential confounders were considered. The outcome variable was good/excellent versus fair/poor self-reported health.


Sickness presenteeism at baseline was consistently found to heighten the risk of fair/poor health at both the 18-month and 3-year follow ups even after adjusting for the detected confounders.


To the best of the authors’ knowledge, this study is the first to show that sickness presenteeism appears to be an independent risk factor for future fair/poor general health.

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We are grateful to the project groups in the HAKuL and AHA studies who have been indispensable in the completion of these studies. We gratefully acknowledge the financial support of AFA-sjukförsäkring and the Swedish Council for Working Life and Social Research (FAS), Stockholm, Sweden.

Conflict of interest statement

None declared.

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Correspondence to Gunnar Bergström.

Additional information

The study was approved by the Ethical Committee of the Karolinska Institute (AHA; Dnr 00-012), (HaKuL Dnr 99-242).

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Bergström, G., Bodin, L., Hagberg, J. et al. Does sickness presenteeism have an impact on future general health?. Int Arch Occup Environ Health 82, 1179–1190 (2009).

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