A ‘Balanced’ Life: Work-Life Balance and Sickness Absence in Four Nordic Countries

D Antai, A Oke, P Braithwaite, DS Anthony


Background: Little attention has been given to the relationship between work-life balance and sickness absence.

Objective: To investigate the association between poor work-life balance and sickness absence in 4 Nordic welfare states.

Methods: Multivariable logistic regression analysis was performed on pooled cross-sectional data of workers aged 15–65 years from Denmark, Finland, Sweden, and Norway (n=4186) obtained from the 2010 European Working Conditions Survey (EWCS). Poor work-life balance was defined based on the fit between working hours and family or social commitments outside work. Self-reported sickness absence was measured as absence for ≥7 days from work for health reasons.

Results: Poor work-life balance was associated with elevated odds (OR 1.38, 95% CI 1.06 to 1.80) of self-reported sickness absence and more health problems in the 4 Nordic countries, even after adjusting for several important confounding factors. Work-related characteristics, ie, no determination over schedule (OR 1.26, 95% CI 1.04 to 1.53), and job insecurity (OR 1.56, 95% CI 1.21 to 2.02) increased the likelihood of sickness absence, and household characteristics, ie, cohabitation status (OR 0.75, 95% CI 0.58 to 0.96) reduced this likelihood. The associations were non-significant when performed separately for women and men.

Conclusion: Sickness absence is predicted by poor work-life balance. Findings suggest the need for implementation of measures that prevent employee difficulties in combining work and family life.


Sick leave; Workplace; Family; Denmark; Finland; Sweden; Health planning; Norway; Scandinavian and Nordic countries

doi: 10.15171/ijoem.2015.667

 pISSN: 2008-6520
 eISSN: 2008-6814

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License