Sick leave for mental illness linked to early death

By Amy Norton

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - People who need to take time off from work for a mental health problem may live shorter lives than those in better psychiatric health, a new study suggests.

Researchers found that among nearly 20,000 French workers they followed, those who’d taken at least 1 week’s sick leave for a mental health disorder had a higher death rate over 14 years.

At the outset, 41 percent of the workers — all public utility employees — had taken at least 1 week’s sick leave over the past 3 years. Those who’d taken time off specifically for depression or other mental health disorders were one quarter to one third more likely to die over the study period than workers with no mental-health absences.

“Basically the message is that workers with medically certified absences for mental diagnoses should be considered a population at a higher risk of fatal disease,” lead researcher Dr. Jane E. Ferrie, of the University College London in the UK, told Reuters Health.

She stressed, however, that the findings point to a relatively higher death rate in this group as a whole — and that does not mean that any one person with a mental health disorder has an unusually high risk of early death.

When studies observe large populations over time to look for patterns, the results cannot be used to “infer risk at the level of the individual,” Ferrie explained.

The findings, published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, are based on 19,235 public utility employees (5271 female) who were part of long-range health study. The researchers used employment records to verify any medically certified work absences the employees had between 1990 and 1992. (French law requires workers to get a medical certificate from their doctors for each day of sick leave.)

Between 1993 and 2007, there were 902 deaths among the study participants. Those who’d taken 7 days or more off from work for a mental health disorder had a higher risk of death, even when their age and type of job were taken into account.

With the exception of extreme cases, mental health problems do not, in themselves, kill people, Ferrie pointed out. Instead, she explained, poor mental health is often connected to poor physical health.

On one hand, physical conditions may lead to depression or other mental health problems, Ferrie noted. On the other, psychiatric conditions may directly impair physical health, possibly by affecting the nervous and hormonal systems.

SOURCE: Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, November 25, 2008.


Related Posts:

By Anne Harding NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Giving working mothers paid maternity leave — and more of it — could go a long way toward helping them to continue breastfeeding their babies, a new study in Pediatrics shows. “For breastfeeding it seems that really the time that matters is postpartum leave,” Dr. Sylvia Guendelman of the

Full Post: Longer paid leaves promote breastfeeding success

By Amy Norton NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - A workplace program that encourages employees to set exercise goals appears to boost regular activity substantially, according to a new study. After 12 weeks with the program, offered to workers at eight Home Depot sites, 51 percent of workers were meeting experts’ general recommendations for exercise — at least

Full Post: Workplace program ups employees’ exercise levels

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Depression, anxiety and certain other mental health conditions are more common among infertile couples than those who are able to conceive on their own, a small study suggests. The findings, say researchers, imply that routine mental health screening could benefit patients being treated for infertility. While most of the 81 infertile couples

Full Post: Mental woes more common in infertile couples

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Almost half of college-age Americans have suffered from some type of mental health problem in the past year, but few seek treatment, a survey finds. The survey, of more than 5,000 U.S. adults ages 19 to 25, found that mental health disorders were common among both college students and those not

Full Post: Mental health disorders common in young adults: survey

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - More than half of large U.S. employers offer wellness programs like gym memberships and weight loss assistance to their workers, and say these help reduce medical costs, according to a survey released on Tuesday. The MetLife survey found that 70 percent of employers who offer wellness programs saw them as a “very important

Full Post: U.S. employers offer and value wellness programs

Site Navigation

Most Read