Sickness absence: A gender-focused review

Marrie H.J. Bekker, Christel G. Rutte, Karen Van Rijswijk

Research output: Contribution to JournalReview articleAcademicpeer-review


Women compared with men are generally considered to have higher sickness absence rates. Also determinants of sickness absent may differ between the sexes, a relevant area of knowledge for organizations that want to fine-tune particular measures to particular determinants. The present article offers a review of the literature regarding the relationships between sickness absence and gender. Various explanations mentioned in the literature are discussed using a classification derived from the Multi-Facet Gender and Health Model. Women compared to men seem indeed more frequently absent at work but this depends on countries, age - and professional groups, and seems restricted to short-term absence. Main conclusions with respect to future research concern the desirability of context-sensitive research and the usefulness of short-term versus long-term absenteeism as an outcome variable. Additionally, we recommend to further investigate the effects of organizational and psychosocial gender-related work characteristics, gender-bias in diagnostics and treatment, as well as gender differences in specific person-related factors interacting with gender differences in work-related daily life factors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)405-418
Number of pages14
JournalPsychology, Health and Medicine
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Burnout
  • Gender
  • Multiple roles
  • Sex differences
  • Sickness absence


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