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Work–family conflict as a risk factor for sickness absence
  1. N W H Jansen1,
  2. IJ Kant1,
  3. L G P M van Amelsvoort1,
  4. T S Kristensen2,
  5. G M H Swaen1,
  6. F J N Nijhuis3
  1. 1Department of Epidemiology, Faculty of Medicine, Maastricht University, Maastricht, Netherlands
  2. 2National Institute of Occupational Health, Copenhagen, Denmark
  3. 3Department of Health Organisation, Policy and Economics, Faculty of Health Sciences, Maastricht University, Maastricht, Netherlands
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr N W H Jansen
 Department of Epidemiology, Maastricht University, PO Box 616, 6200 MD Maastricht, Netherlands; Nicole.Jansen{at}


Objectives: (1) To study both cross-sectional and prospective relationships between work–family conflict and sickness absence from work; (2) to explore the direction of the relationships between the different types of conflict (work–home interference and home–work interference) and sickness absence; and (3) to explore gender differences in the above relationships.

Methods: Data from the Maastricht Cohort Study were used with six months of follow up (5072 men and 1015 women at T6). Work–family conflict was measured with the Survey Work–Home Interference Nijmegen (SWING). Sickness absence was assessed objectively through individual record linkage with the company registers on sickness absence.

Results: In the cross-sectional analyses, high levels of work–family conflict, work–home interference, and home–work interference were all associated with a higher odds of being absent at the time of completing the questionnaire, after controlling for age and long term disease. Differences in average number of absent days between cases and non-cases of work–home interference were significant for men and most pronounced in women, where the average number of absent days over six months follow up was almost four days higher in women with high versus low–medium work–home interference.

Conclusions: A clear relation between work–family conflict and sickness absence was shown. Additionally, the direction of work–family conflict was associated with a different sickness absence pattern. Sickness absence should be added to the list of adverse outcomes for employees struggling to combine their work and family life.

  • work–home interference
  • home–work interference
  • sick leave
  • cohort study

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  • Published Online First 12 May 2006

  • Competing interests: none