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Popul Health Manag. 2014 Aug;17(4):211-7. doi: 10.1089/pop.2013.0087. Epub 2014 Mar 10.

How valid are self-reports of illness-related absence? Evidence from a university employee health management program.

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MHealthy, University of Michigan Health and Wellbeing Services , Ann Arbor, Michigan.


The present study uses a focused approach to compare self-reported versus administratively recorded measures of absences related to health or illness. To date, the few studies that focus on this topic produced mixed results. To help shed light on this issue, the present research has 2 related objectives: (1) examine how highly correlated self-reported and administratively recorded measures of absences related to health or illness might be, and (2) how each measure predicts various aspects of health. Using data from the 2012 StayWell® Health Management health risk appraisal (HRA) and 1 year (2011) of administratively recorded timekeeping data, bivariate analyses for continuous variables and generalized linear modeling for variables with greater than 2 response categories were used. For the multivariate analyses, linear regression models controlling for sex, age, race, income, job status, and campus location were calculated for the continuous outcomes (ie, self-rated health and chronic conditions). Results indicate that self-reported and administratively recorded absences related to health or illness were moderately correlated (correlation coefficient of 0.47). In addition, each measure functioned similarly (in direction and magnitude) to predict health outcomes. Both greater self-reported and recorded illness-related absenteeism was associated with poorer self-rated health and greater numbers of chronic conditions. These results suggest that self-rated illness-related absenteeism may be a reasonable way to assess various program outcomes meaningful to employers, particularly if administratively recorded measures are unavailable or too time consuming or expensive to analyze.

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