Comparison of sick leave patterns between Norway and Denmark in the health and care sector: A register study.
ABSTRACT Aims: Sickness absence is of considerable concern in both Norway and Denmark. Labour Force Surveys indicate that absence in Norway is about twice that in Denmark and twice that of the mean reported by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. This study compares absence patterns according to age, percentage of employment, and occupation between municipal employees in the health and care sectors in two municipalities in Norway and Denmark. Methods: Data recorded in the personnel registers of the municipalities of Kristiansand, Norway and Aarhus, Denmark were extracted for the years 2004 and 2008, revealing 3498 and 7751 employee-years, respectively. We calculated absence rates together with number of sick leave episodes, and their association with the above-mentioned covariates. Gender-specific comparative descriptive statistics and negative binomial regression analysis were performed. Results: The sickness absence rate in women was 11.3% in Norway (95% confidence interval [CI] 11.2-11.4) and 7.0% in Denmark (95% CI 7.0-7.1) whereas mean number of sick leave episodes among women was 2.4 in Denmark, compared to 2.3 in Norway (p = 0.02). Young employees in Denmark had more sick leave episodes than in Norway. Proportion of absentees was higher in Denmark compared to Norway (p < 0.0001). Conclusions: The finding of that more employees in Denmark have more frequent, but shorter sick leave episodes compared to Norway, for whatever reasons, may indicate that more frequent sick leaves episodes prevent higher sick leaves rates.