Smokers more likely to take days off work

In collaboration with the Press Association

Smokers take an average of almost eight days more sick leave every year than their non-smoking colleagues, according to research published in Tobacco Control. The new study, conducted at the Free University of Amsterdam, examined national representative registry data on sickness absences of over 14,000 workers and showed that smokers are more likely to be off sick.

Looking at figures from 1988 to 1991, the study found that 45 per cent of the workers had never smoked, while 29 per cent were currently smokers and 26 per cent were ex-smokers. The non-smokers appeared to have around 11 fewer sick days a year, but once the nature of the smokers' jobs and other health issues were accounted for, this was reduced to around eight days. There appeared to be little difference in sick rates between female and male smokers.

The average Swedish worker, regardless of gender or smoking habits, currently loses a total of 25 working days per year to sickness.

"The results suggest that policies that reduce and/or prevent smoking may also reduce the number of days of sick leave," explained Petter Lundborg, head of the study.

However, he added it was important to realise that Sweden does have a high rate of sickness absence rates, especially compared with the US and a number of EU states.