Using Karasek's job strain model, the objective of the study was to determine whether nurses exposed to job strain had a higher incidence of sick leave than nurses not exposed.
The design was longitudinal. Data on sick leave were collected for 1,793 nurses for a 20-month period: short-term leaves and certified sick leaves. The Job Content Questionnaire was used to measure psychological demands, job decision latitude, and social support at work.
Short-term sick leaves were associated with job strain (incidence density ratio (IDR) = 1.20) and with low social support at work (IDR = 1.26). Certified sick leaves were also significantly associated with low social support at work (IDR = 1.27 for all diagnoses and IDR = 1.78 for mental health diagnoses).
Our results support the association between job strain and short-term sick leaves. The association with certified sick leaves is also significant for subgroups of nurses with specific job characteristics. Social support at work, although associated with all types of sick leaves measured, does not modify the association between job strain and absence.