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Labour Market Segregation and Gender Differences in Sickness Absence: Trends in 2005–2013 in Finland

Julkaistu 1.5.2018



Women have higher sickness absence rate than men, but less is known of changes in this difference over time. We examined gender differences in sickness absence trends focusing on gender segregation in the labour market.


We used large nationwide register data on Finnish wage earners aged 25-59 and generalized estimation equations based on repeated logistic regression to estimate the annual risk of sickness absence lasting at least 2 weeks.


Between 2005 and 2013, the age-adjusted proportion (%) of employees with all-cause sickness absence decreased from the initial levels of 10.6 among men and 15.1 among women by 16.7 and 13.6%, respectively. Among both genders, the largest decrease in sickness absence coincided with the peak of the economic recession in 2009. In sickness absence due to all causes and musculoskeletal diseases, also the excess decrease among men mainly occurred in 2009, and in sickness absence due to mental disorders 2 years later. In sickness absence due to all causes and musculoskeletal diseases, the increasing gender difference was mainly attributable to a larger decrease in sickness absence at the time of the recession in male-dominated groups, such as in manual and manufacturing work, than in other sectors and occupational classes. In mental disorders, the increasing gender difference was partly attributable to a later smaller decrease in sickness absence among female-dominated lower non-manual and lower income employment groups. The increasing gender differences did not result from differential distributional changes in employment or sociodemographic factors among the employed male and female populations. In fact, widening of the gender gap in sickness absence due to all causes and musculoskeletal diseases would have been even larger without faster increase among women in the educational level and in non-manual employment.


Sickness absence decreased especially in male-dominated employment groups, resulting in a larger decrease in absences among men compared with women. More research is needed to ascertain whether these differential changes are attributable, for example, to reduced willingness to seek medical advice or increased presenteeism in male-dominated groups, or to increased work pressures in female-dominated groups. Selection mechanisms, i.e. men's increased ill-health-related exit from work through other routes than sickness absence, also cannot be ruled out.

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Taina Leinonen, Eira Viikari-Juntura, Kirsti Husgafvel-Pursiainen, Lauri J Virta, Mikko Laaksonen, Ilona Autti-Rämö, Svetlana Solovieva 

Lisätietoja julkaisusta

  • Vertaisarvioitu: kyllä.
  • Avoin saatavuus: kyllä.
  • Koko viite: Leinonen, T., Viikari-Juntura, E., Husgafvel-Pursiainen, K., Virta, L. J., Laaksonen, M., Autti-Rämö, I., & Solovieva, S. (2018). Labour Market Segregation and Gender Differences in Sickness Absence: Trends in 2005-2013 in Finland. Annals of work exposures and health, 62(4), 438–449.

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