For some years a high severity of sickness absence has been noted in young postmen. This cross sectional study is of 4419 male postmen and 787 male postal officers and postal assistants, of whom 3753 and 709 respectively were employed for the whole year of the study from 1 April 1982 to 31 March 1983. A stratification technique was used to assess the influence of duration of service on sickness absence within certain age ranges. Differences in the proportion of men taking more than a stated number of spells or days, in groups of short and long service, are tested statistically using Chi square tests with a continuity correction. Statistically significant reductions, with increasing duration of service, are found for self certificated spells and days in all postmen and for certificated spells but not days in younger postmen. Older postal officers and postal assistants have a statistically significant reduction in self certificated spells. Young postal officers and postal assistants show no significant change in spells and days of sickness absence with duration of service. It is concluded that the excess severity of sickness absence in younger postmen is due to self certificated absence rather than certificated absence. The difference in severity of sickness absence in various diagnostic groups with increasing duration of service is discussed. The limitations of a cross sectional study mean that further work is required to investigate this problem using longitudinal techniques.
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