Objectives Sickness absence (SA) rates are high in Norway, and there is an increasing gender disparity with a female excess. Social interaction on different levels has been suggested as one potential determinant of SA. Our objective was to examine the effect of maternal SA in adolescence on own SA in young adult age. The hypotheses were that maternal SA has an impact on own subsequent SA, with females being more susceptible than males.
Methods All live-born in Norway 1974–1976 (N = 169 498) were followed up in several national registers. The analyses included the 130 645 subjects at risk of sickness absence in 2003 who had a mother at risk of SA in 1990. All SA was restricted to spells exceeding 16 days. The exposure was any maternal SA in 1990. The outcome was any non-injury musculoskeletal (MSD) SA (ICPC codes L72-L81, L96) in 2003. Gender-specific one-year MSD SA risk was computed, and associations with maternal SA were examined as relative risks (RR) in Poisson regression. Estimates were adjusted for predetermined covariates (year of birth, birth order, parental education level and marital status, maternal age, geographical region).
Results MSD SA risks were 0.070 (4381/62 221) for females and 0.039 (2638/68 424) for males. Crude RRs in association with maternal SA was 1.31 (95% CI 1.20–1.42) for females and 1.45 (1.31–1.61) for males. Adjusted RRs were 1.27 (1.19–1.36) and 1.35 (1.21–1.49), respectively. On an additive scale, adjusted risk differences were 0.017 (0.010–0.023) for females and 0.013 (0.009–0.018) for males.
Conclusions Maternal SA was moderately associated with own MSD SA 14 years later. The results suggest that social interaction within the family has some impact on SA in young adult age. There were no indications that females were more susceptible than males concerning this maternal influence.
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