Relative deprivation and sickness absence in Sweden

J. Helgertz, W. Hess, K. Scott

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background: A high prevalence of sickness absence in many countries, at a substantial societal cost, underlines the importance to understand its determining mechanisms. This study focuses on the link between relative deprivation and the probability of sickness absence. Methods: 184,000 men and women in Sweden were followed between 1982 and 2001. The sample consists of working individuals between the ages of 19 and 65. The outcome is defined as experiencing more than 14 days of sickness absence during a year. Based on the complete Swedish population, an individual's degree of relative deprivation is measured through income compared to individuals of the same age, sex, educational level and type. In accounting for the possibility that sickness absence and socioeconomic status are determined by common factors, discrete-time duration models were estimated, accounting for unobserved heterogeneity through random effects. Results: The results confirm that the failure to account for the dynamics of the individual's career biases the influence from socioeconomic characteristics. Results consistently suggest a major influence from relative deprivation, with a consistently lower risk of sickness absence among the highly educated. Conclusions: Altering individual's health behavior through education appears more efficient in reducing the reliance on sickness absence, rather than redistributive policies. © 2013 by the authors; licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3930-3953
Number of pages24
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number9
StatePublished - 2013

Bibliographical note

Export Date: 26 December 2018

Correspondence Address: Helgertz, J.; Department of Economic History and Centre for Economic Demography, Lund University, P.O. Box 7083, Lund 22007, Sweden; email:


  • Duration analysis
  • Relative deprivation
  • Sickness absence
  • Sweden
  • labor standard
  • probability
  • socioeconomic status
  • working conditions
  • workplace
  • absenteeism
  • adult
  • age
  • article
  • career
  • controlled study
  • educational status
  • experience
  • female
  • gender
  • health behavior
  • health care policy
  • human
  • income
  • male
  • social status
  • statistical model
  • work
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Educational Status
  • Employment
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Income
  • Job Satisfaction
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Sick Leave
  • Social Class
  • Young Adult

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