Article Text

Download PDFPDF
Occupational stress and incidence of sick leave in the Belgian workforce: the Belstress study
  1. M Moreau1,
  2. F Valente1,
  3. R Mak2,
  4. E Pelfrene2,
  5. P de Smet1,
  6. G De Backer2,
  7. M Kornitzer1
  1. 1Department of Epidemiology and Health Promotion, School of Public Health, Brussels Free University, Belgium
  2. 2Vakgroep Maatschappelijke Gezondheidkunde, Universiteit Gent, Belgium
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr M Moreau
 Department of Epidemiology and Health Promotion, School of Public Health, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Campus Erasme, CP 595, Route de Lennik 808, B-1070 Brussels, Belgium;


Context: Sick leave is a major problem in public health. The Karasek demands/control/social support/strain (JDCS) model has been largely used to predict a wide range of health outcomes and to a lesser extent sickness absence.

Study objective: The aim of the study was to test the predictive power of the JDCS model in relation with one year incidence of sick leave in a large cohort of workers.

Design and setting: Cohort study conducted between 1994 and 1998 in 25 companies across Belgium.

Participants: A total of 20 463 workers aged 35 to 59 years were followed up for sick leave during one year after the baseline survey.

Outcomes: The outcomes were a high sick leave incidence, short spells (⩾7 days), long spells (⩾28 days), and repetitive spells of sickness absence (⩾3 spells/year).

Main results: Independently from baseline confounding variables, a significant association between high strained jobs with low social support and repetitive spells of sickness absence was observed in both sexes with odds ratios of 1.32 (99% CI, 1.04 to 1.68) in men and 1.61 (99% CI, 1.13 to 2.33) in women. In men, high strained jobs with low social support was also significantly associated with high sick leave incidence, and short spells of sick leave with odds ratios of 1.38 (99% CI, 1.16 to 1.64) and 1.22 (99% CI, 1.05 to 1.44) respectively.

Conclusions: Perceived high strain at work especially combined with low social support is predictive of sick leave in both sexes of a large cohort of the Belgian workforce.

  • job characteristics
  • job stress
  • sick leave

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.


  • Funding: the study received grants from the National Foundation of Scientific Research (FNRS) and the “Services fédéraux des affaires Scientifiques, Techniques et Culturelles” (SSTC).

  • Conflicts of interest: none declared.

Linked Articles