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Smokers May Take More Sick Days

Swedish Study Shows Smokers There Take 8 More Sick Days a Year Than Nonsmokers
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

March 28, 2007 -- Smokers take more sick days off from work than nonsmokers -- at least in Sweden, a study there shows.

The study is based on data from more than 14,200 workers in Sweden aged 16-65.

Between 1988 and 1991, the workers completed a survey in which they reported their smoking status and number of annual sick days taken.

Of the workers, 45% were nonsmokers. An additional 26% were former smokers; 29% smoked.

On average, the workers reported taking 25 annual sick days.

Petter Lundborg, who works in Amsterdam in Free University's economics department, analyzed the sick-day data for smokers and nonsmokers.

He found that smokers averaged 34 annual sick days, compared with 25 sick days a year for former smokers and 20 for nonsmokers.

Smokers tended to be older, with less education and more chronic disease, than other workers.

After considering the workers' age, health status, type of work, and other factors, Lundborg calculated that smokers averaged nearly eight more sick days per year than nonsmokers.

Similar calculations erased the sick-day gap between former smokers and nonsmokers.

Sweden's sick-day rate is particularly high, Lundborg notes. For instance, U.S. workers average only nine sick days per year, he says.

In Sweden, sick days are paid for by either social insurance or employers, Lundborg notes.

Since Swedish workers may not be representative of workers in other countries, Lundborg says the findings "should be interpreted with some caution."

His study appears online in Tobacco Control.

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