London, Oct 3 : Employees who take long spells of sick leave for circulatory or psychiatric problems or for surgery are at an increased risk of dying early, says a new study.
The study suggests that specific reasons for absence such as psychiatric problems or heart disease may improve the prediction of premature death.
Jenny Head from University College London analysed the sickness absence records of 6,478 British civil servants between 1985 and 1988 and analysed associations with death until 2004.
The study showed that 30 pct of men and women who had one or more medically certified absence in three years had a 66 pct increased risk of premature death than those with no such absence, reports the British Medical Journal.
The researchers report that by including the diagnosis for sickness absence they significantly improved the prediction of the risk of death.
They found that employees taking sickness absences due to circulatory disease were four times more likely to die prematurely than their colleagues with no absence. On the other hand, those who took absence due to psychiatric diseases were nearly twice as likely to die prematurely, and those with a surgical operation diagnosis were more than twice as likely.
Moreover, one or more spells of absence with a psychiatric diagnosis was predictive of a two and a half fold increase in cancer related death.
In an accompanying editorial, Johannes Anema and Allard van der Beek from the VU University Medical Centre in the Netherlands, suggest that specific diagnostic information on sickness absence could provide general practitioners with "a useful biopsychosocial tool" to identify workers with an increased risk of serious illness or risk of death.
The study has been published on study on bmj.com.