Explanations for sickness absence due to common mental disorders: A narrative study of young health and social care workers

Noora Heinonen*, Anu Katainen, Tea Lallukka, Hilla Nordquist, Anne Kouvonen

*Corresponding author for this work

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Abstract

Over recent decades, sickness absence due to common mental disorders has increased among young workers. The phenomenon is mostly understood on the basis of epidemiological research, and knowledge regarding the viewpoints of young workers themselves is lacking. Our study explored the explanations for mental health-related sickness absence in the narrative accounts of young workers in high-risk health and social care occupations. Semi-structured narrative interviews were conducted with 23 Finnish young workers (aged 21-34), with self-reported sickness absence related to common mental disorders over the previous year. Our analysis identified three narrative explanations for the onset of mental health problems leading to sick leave: work as the sole cause, work as an additional cause and work as a trigger. These findings indicate that mental health-related sickness absences form a complex phenomenon related to various life and work-related circumstances. More comprehensive preventive measures are needed in the health and social care sector to help tackle mental health problems among young workers.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages17
JournalSociology of Health & Illness
Early online date30 Jan 2024
DOIs
Publication statusEarly online date - 30 Jan 2024

Keywords

  • qualitative research
  • health and social care work
  • young adults
  • sickness absence
  • common mental disorders

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