Prior evidence on the relationship between hostility and minor health problems is limited to cross-sectional self-report studies. In the present study, this relationship was examined prospectively.
Hostility of 1077 municipal employees was measured by a questionnaire survey and minor health problems by using 4-year register-based absence data including medically certificated diagnoses.
High hostility predicted a high total number of long-term sickness absence spells among men, but not among women. In separate diagnostic categories (musculo-skeletal, traumas and injuries, respiratory), hostility related positively and linearly to absences due to traumatic causes and curvilinearly (U-shape) to absences due to musculo-skeletal causes. Controlling the effects of health risk behaviour and demographic background did not significantly change these figures. However, health risk behaviour moderated the relations of hostility to overall long-term sickness absences, and to traumatic and musculo-skeletal absences, being significantly stronger in high-risk groups. No association was found between hostility and non-certificated short-term absence spells.
The results suggest that hostility plays a role in the aetiology of minor health problems.