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PLoS One. 2012;7(9):e45788. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0045788. Epub 2012 Sep 25.

Sickness absence due to specific mental diagnoses and all-cause and cause-specific mortality: a cohort study of 4.9 million inhabitants of Sweden.

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  • 1Department of Clinical Neuroscience, Division of Insurance Medicine, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden.



Despite the magnitude and increase of sickness absence due to mental diagnoses, little is known regarding long-term health outcomes. The aim of this nationwide population-based, prospective cohort study was to investigate the association between sickness absence due to specific mental diagnoses and the risk of all-cause and cause-specific mortality.


A cohort of all 4 857 943 individuals living in Sweden on 31.12.2004 (aged 16-64 years, not sickness absent, or on retirement or disability pension), was followed from 01.01.2005 through 31.12.2008 for all-cause and cause-specific mortality (suicide, cancer, circulatory disease) through linkage of individual register data. Individuals with at least one new sick-leave spell with a mental diagnosis in 2005 were compared to individuals with no sickness absence. Hazard ratios (HR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) were estimated by Cox regression, adjusting for age, sex, education, country of birth, family situation, area of residence, and pre-existing morbidity (diagnosis-specific hospital inpatient (2000-2005) and outpatient (2001-2005) care).


In the multivariate analyses, mental sickness absence in 2005 was associated with an increased risk for all-cause mortality: HR: 1.65, 95% CI: 1.47-1.86 in women and in men: 1.73, 1.57-1.91; for suicide, cancer (both smoking and non-smoking related) as well as mortality due to circulatory disease only in men. Estimates for cause-specific mortality ranged from 1.48 to 3.37. Associations with all-cause mortality were found for all mental sickness absence diagnostic groups studied.


Knowledge about the prognosis of patients sickness absent with specific mental diagnoses is of crucial clinical importance in health care. Sickness absence due to specific mental diagnoses may here be used as a risk indictor for subsequent mortality.

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