To examine job strain, adverse life events, and their co-occurrence as predictors of sickness absence.
Random sample-based mail survey data on 1806 Finns in gainful employment were linked to sickness absence records (1987-1998) from national health registers. Generalized linear models with negative binomial distribution assumption were applied.
After adjustment for demographic characteristics and health behavior, job strain (rate ratio [RR] 1.73; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.21-2.48), but not life events, independently predicted increased rate of sickness absence among men. The opposite was true for women, (RR for life events 1.39; 95% CI = 1.10-1.75). No statistically significant interaction between job strain and life events was detected.
In addition to job strain, strain originating in private life should be kept in mind when the need for sickness absence of women employees is evaluated within health care.