Sick leave linked to early death

Employees who take regular periods of long-term sick leave die earlier than their colleagues, a study by the British Medical Journal said today.

Researchers found that workers with more than one absence requiring a doctor's note on their records were 66 per cent more likely to die prematurely.

And workers who had to stay off work because of psychiatric problems were two and a half more likely to die of cancer.

Those who had to take time off because of circulatory disease were the most likely to die before their healthy colleagues. Researchers found they had a four time higher chance of a premature death.

Workers taking time off as a result of psychiatric diseases were nearly twice as likely to die prematurely, and those who had time away from work for surgery were more than twice as likely.

But employees who suffered musculoskeletal diseases had no increased risk.

The University College London research, published by the BMJ, looked at the sickness records of 6,478 British civil servants.

Study leader Jenny Head told BBC Online that the link between psychiatric illness and cancer could be due to depressed people failing to visit their doctor early enough.

"We didn't study the reason, but it might be people that tend to be depressed might be less likely to seek help from a doctor or being prone to depression could affect your cancer prognosis or depression might affect adherence to treatment."

She added: "It would be useful for this information to be collected because we could identify groups with high risk of serious health problems".

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