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Is Absence Related to Work Stress? A Repeated Cross-Sectional Study on a Special Police Force


  • Prof. Nicola Magnavita MD,

    Corresponding author
    1. Institute of Occupational Medicine, Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Roma, Italy
    • Institute of Occupational Medicine, Catholic University School of Medicine, Largo Gemelli 8, Rome 00168, Italy. E-mail:

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  • Sergio Garbarino MD, PhD

    1. State Police Health Service Department, Ministry of the Interior, Roma, Italy
    2. Department of Neuroscience, Ophthalmology and Genetics, University of Genoa, Genoa, Italy
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  • License statement: The corresponding author has the right to grant on behalf of all authors and does grant on behalf of all authors, an exclusive license on a worldwide basis to permit this article (if accepted) to be published.
  • Disclosure Statement: The authors report no conflicts of interests.
  • Ethics approval: As stated in the “Methods” section, the study protocol was approved by the Ethics Committee of the Catholic University Rome School of Medicine, Rome, Italy. This study has been authorized by the Institute of Occupational Medicine of the same University, and by the National Police Board, Ministry of the Interior, Italy. This article does not contain details which would allow patients to be identified. Workers gave their explicit informed consent to participation in the study.



Sickness absence due to illness is considered an indicator of work-related stress. Police work is a very stressful job. Sickness absence and sick leave are frequent among policemen.


We tested whether stress variables were predictors of absenteeism in a police unit specifically assigned to the maintenance of law and order.


Control, Reward, and Support were negatively related to frequency of absence and short-term absence. Demand and Effort were positively related to total lost days. Absence recorded in the previous year was the best predictor of absenteeism. We also found a positive, albeit weak association between absence in the previous year and subsequent work-related stress.


Stress variables are associated with sickness absence, although the association is weak. Both short-term and prolonged sickness absence should be regarded as a warning sign for subsequent sickness absence and distress. Am. J. Ind. Med. 56:765–775, 2013. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.