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Tuesday 25th October 2016

Early death link to sick leave

3rd October 2008

Employees who take long spells of sick leave for psychiatric reasons face a significantly increased risk of dying from cancer.

The findings from research carried out at University College London were described as "unexpected" but could be useful in identifying at risk groups.

The study, published in the British Medical Journal, showed that people who have long spells of sick leave for psychiatric reasons such as depression are twice as likely to die from cancer as healthier employees.

Researchers focussed on 6,500 civil servants and those with long periods of sick leave over three years had a 66% higher risk of early death.

They looked at sickness records from workers in London in 20 Whitehall departments from 1985 onwards and compared with mortality up until 2004.

Highest risk people were those who had been absent through heart disease or stroke, though those who took time off from common respiratory conditions and infections were also associated with an increased risk of death. Some 288 people died during the study period.

Jenny Head, who led the study, said it was the first time work absence for psychiatric reasons had been linked to death from cancer.

"That was the unexpected finding," she said. "We didn't study the reason, but it might be people that tend to be depressed might be less likely to seek help from a doctor or being prone to depression could affect your cancer prognosis or depression might affect adherence to treatment."

She said the information could highlight groups with high risk of serious health problems.


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