Study Finds Association between Working Sick and Heart Problems

December 29, 2004 ( - There is a strong correlation between men who refuse to take sick days and coronary problems, according to a new study by Finnish doctor Mika Kivimaki.

Looking at 5000 British male civil servants ages 35 to 55, Kivimaki found a relationship between sickness “presenteeism” – working when sick – and the rate of serious coronary events, according to a Reuters report.

At the beginning of the study, participants rated their health, and their sick day record was tracked for three years. For those who rated themselves as “unhealthy”, not taking sick days was associated with having double the risk of serious coronary troubles, and remained high even when other factors, such as lifestyle, were considered.

“The fact that the incidence of serious coronary events is twice as high among unhealthy employees with no sickness absenteeism as among unhealthy employees with moderate levels of sickness absenteeism probably reflects the adverse consequences of working while ill — that is, sickness presenteeism,” the researchers conclude, adding: “This risk was not explained by baseline differences in conventional coronary risk factors, but it seemed to relate to lack of short-term periods of absence,” according to Reuters.

The study was published in the American Journal of Public Health, and is available here with a subscription.