Treat me bad, I get sick

2003

Workers who get a treated badly at work are more likely go sick, researchers have found.

A literature review published in the January 2003 edition of the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine suggests that most important work factors associated with psychological ill health and sickness absence in staff are “long hours worked, work overload and pressure, and the effects of these on personal lives; lack of control over work; lack of participation in decision making; poor social support; and unclear management and work role.”

There was also evidence of a correlation between sickness absence and poor management style.

The journal also reports a Finnish study that looked at the association between organisational justice - described as 'justice of decision making procedures and interpersonal treatment' - and the health of employees.

The study examined health and absence records of 416 male and 3,357 female employees working during 1998-2000 in 10 hospitals in Finland. It found that male workers classed as having low justice in 'decision making procedures' had a 41 per cent higher risk of sickness absence than their high justice equivalents.

Among women, low justice workers had a sickness absence rate 12 per cent higher. The pattern was similar for workers on the receiving end of poor 'interpersonal treatment'. In both sexes, low justice workers were more likely to be dissatisfied with their health.

But the authors of the literature review authors conclude that none of this is inevitable. Psychological health and levels of sickness absence could both be improved by increasing participation in decision making and problem solving, increasing support and feedback, and improving communications.