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October/November 2009 (vol. 06/3)

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Research Plus

Gender bias in sickness absence rates

Women are generally perceived to have higher absence rates than men – although this is not actually the case in all age groups and professions and is restricted to short-term absence. This literature review used the Multi-Facet Gender and Health Model to classify various biological, psychological and socio-cultural factors that influence health-related sex differences. The reasons for higher rates of female absence, where these exist, are complex. They include: health problems related to pregnancy and menstruation (rather than general morbidity); perceived inequity at work; the nature of work, such as high work demands and little decision latitude; lack of support or opportunities for social support; and comparatively low thresholds for taking sick leave owing to organisational culture. Dual work and childcare responsibilities do not explain higher absence rates in women (the evidence is scarce and mixed) although there may be a healthy worker effect (ie those unable to cope may withdraw from work).

Psychology, Health & Medicine 2009; 14(4): 405–418. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/13548500903012830#.VLANoGcYTcs

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Occupational Health at Work October/November 2009 (vol. 06/3) pp39-40