Work-family conflicts and sickness absence-a register-linked cohort study among young and early midlife employees

Aino Salonsalmi, Anne Kouvonen, Ossi Rahkonen, Eero Lahelma, Tea Lallukka

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Work-family conflicts (WFC) have been associated with poor mental health, poor self-rated health and sickness absence. However, studies on short sickness absence are lacking and more information is needed also about long sickness absence regarding the direction of WFC, and potential explaining factors particularly among young and early middle-aged employees. The Helsinki Health Study baseline survey (2017) among 19- to 39-year-old municipal employees (N = 3683, 80% women, response rate 51.5%) was linked to employer's sickness absence data. The associations of work-to-family conflicts (WTFC) and family-to-work conflicts (FTWC) with short (1-7 days) and long (over 7 days) sickness absence were analyzed using negative binomial regression analysis. Covariates were age, gender, family-related factors and work-related factors. Stratified analyses by occupational class were performed. The results are presented as rate ratios and their 95% confidence intervals. High WTFC were associated with short (1.25, 1.12-1.40) and long (1.37, 1.11-1.70) sickness absence. High FTWC were also associated with short (1.12, 1.03-1.22) and long (1.24, 1.06-1.45) sickness absence. Adjustment for family-related factors strengthened the associations, whereas adjustment for work-related factors abolished the associations between WTFC and sickness absence. Associations between WFC and sickness absence were observed among two lowest occupational classes only. WFC are associated with both short and long sickness absence. Work-related factors including the quality of supervisory work and shift work play a role in the association. Intervention studies could determine if improvements in combining work and family life lead to a reduction in sickness absence.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)316–321
JournalEuropean Journal of Public Health
Issue number2
Early online date08 Feb 2024
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2024


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