By On December 1st, 2008

A week off work and increased mortality?

Taking at least a week off from work for a mental health problem could be a sign of increased risk for premature death. According to a study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, both women and men who took more than seven days off for a mental disorder had significantly increased risk for premature death (HR 1.24, 95% CI 1.1 to 1.4 and HR 1.35, 95% CI to 1.3 to 1.5). According to Jane E. Ferrie, Ph.D., of University College London, and colleagues, “Sickness absence for mental disorders may be a useful early indicator of groups at increased risk of fatal disease.” The study examined a sample of 19,235 French public utility workers, data being collected from the GAZEL study. The following is an excerpt of an article from Medpage Today discusses the study in more depth:

They looked at medically certified absences of greater than seven days over a three-year window from Jan. 1, 1990 to Dec. 31, 1992. Outcomes of all-cause mortality were measured between Jan. 1, 1993 and Feb. 25, 2007.

In total, there were 12,498 absence spells because of sickness, occurring in 41% of the study population. About half of the 902 deaths occurred among these 7,875 participants.

The most common diagnoses in women were mental disorders (13.8%), musculoskeletal diseases (12.3%), respiratory diseases (10.7%), genitourinary diseases (7.9%), and external causes (6.8%).

Among men, they were musculoskeletal disease (17.4%), external causes (16.1%), respiratory diseases (10.3%), mental disorders (7.5%), digestive diseases (7.5%) and circulatory diseases (6.8%).

There was a strong association with mortality among women who were absent because of a diagnosis of neoplasm or endocrine disease and mental disorders.

In men, most diagnoses were associated with mortality, with the exception of genitourinary problems, the researchers said.

However, in an analysis adjusted for absences in all other diagnostic categories, risks of mortality were substantially reduced for both sexes — likely because of the effects of comorbidity, the researchers said.

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