Background There is wide evidence that women present longer duration of sickness absence (SA) than men. Musculoskeletal disorders are influenced by gender due to the sexual division of work.
Methods 354 432 episodes of non-work-related SA due to musculoskeletal disorders, which were registered in Catalonia between 2005 and 2008, were selected. The outcome variable was the duration of SA. Frailty survival models, stratified by sex and adjusted for explanatory variables (age, employment status, case management, economic activity and repeated episode), were fitted to study the association between each variable and the duration of SA, obtaining HRs.
Results Women presented longer SA episodes than men in all variable categories. A trend from shorter to longer duration of SA with increasing age was observed in men, whereas in women, it had a fluctuating pattern. Analysing most frequent diagnostic subgroups from the sample, only ‘non-specific lumbago’ and ‘sciatic lumbago’ showed these age patterns. Frailty survival models applied to these 2 subgroups confirmed the described age patterns in SA duration.
Conclusions Women have longer non-work-related SA due to musculoskeletal disorders than men. However, while men have longer absences as their age increases, in women some older groups have shorter absences than younger ones. These findings could be explained by gender differences in the interaction between paid work and family demands. Our results highlight the need for continued research on SA from a gender perspective, in order to improve management of SA in terms of clinical practice and public policies.
- SICKNESS ABSENCE
- Health inequalities
- OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH
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Contributors MMA and GLD were involved in the conception and design of the work. MMA was involved in conducting the review of literature, analysis and interpretation of data and writing of the manuscript. GLD and FGB contributed to the interpretation of data and to the critical review of the article. IT-R and JMM contributed to the analysis and interpretation of data and to the critical review of the article. All the authors have approved the final version of the article.
Competing interests None declared.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.