Women remain twice as sick as men


Published 2 December 2021 at 09.01

Domestic. During the pandemic, sickness absence has increased the most among men – but women still have twice as high sickness absence as men. It shows a new analysis from the Swedish Social Insurance Agency.

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During the pandemic year 2020, the number of started illnesses increased by 31 percent compared with the year before. The largest increase is in the transport industry, 48 percent, followed by health, care and social services, where sickness absence increased by 46 percent in 2020.

Overall, however, sickness absence did not increase measured in the number of replaced days but only in number started illness.

Försäkringskassan believes that the increase in the transport industry is related to potential infection risks in passenger transport and also increased workload in goods transport and goods handling during the pandemic.

– The increase in sick leave in health and care was more expected, both in view of the increased workload during the pandemic, but also due to the potential exposure to infection for those working in so-called contact professions, says Ulrik Lidwall, analyst at Försäkringskassan and lead author of the report, in a mailing.

Previous analyzes have shown that sick leave is more extensive in women-dominated industries such as health, care and social services, but also in male-dominated industries such as the construction and transport industries.

Between 2019 and 2020, the number of started illnesses per 1,000 working women increased by 27 percent (from 121 to 154 illnesses). Among men, sick leave per 1,000 gainfully employed has increased by 36 percent (from 65 to 89 cases). Women's sick leave is thus twice as high as men's, but the increase during the pandemic was greater among men.

– The purpose of this analysis is to draw attention to where in the labor market measures need to be taken to improve the working environment and other conditions at work. We know that preventive measures in the workplace are the most effective way to avoid sick leave, says Ulrik Lidwall.

The analysis also points out how sick leave in different industries has been affected differently by the restrictions and economic effects that the pandemic has had on society. . For example, sick leave has increased significantly, especially for men, in industries that were strongly affected by the restrictions imposed during the pandemic, such as the restaurant and travel industries.

– Seeing their livelihoods disappear is very psychologically stressful and can possibly be a partial explanation for increased sick leave, says Ulrik Lidwall.

There are also sub-industries where sick leave has decreased during the pandemic, for example in the service sector, such as IT and telecom, where it has been possible to work from home to a large extent. According to the Swedish Social Insurance Agency, a possible explanation is that homework has made it easier to combine work and family life and that you have been exposed to less other infections.