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Public Health. 2019 Mar 8;169:93-100. doi: 10.1016/j.puhe.2019.01.016. [Epub ahead of print]

Return to work after sickness absence: a register-based comparison of two indigenous population groups.

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Demography Unit, Faculty of Education and Welfare Studies, Åbo Akademi University, Vaasa, Finland. Electronic address:
Demography Unit, Faculty of Education and Welfare Studies, Åbo Akademi University, Vaasa, Finland.



The objective of the article was to analyse how Finnish and Swedish speakers in Finland differ in health and labour market outcomes after sickness absence. Apart from many similarities, these two population groups differ in life expectancy and union stability and are supposed to be culturally distinct. Our analyses, therefore, help to shed light on the interrelation between culture and health.


We monitored health and labour market-related status 3 years after the first sickness absence.


The register-based longitudinal data covered the years 1988-2010. Multinomial logistic regressions were used to quantify the odds of being unemployed, retired due to disability, otherwise outside the labour force or dead, as compared with being employed. The analyses were controlled for age, educational level, region of residence, population density, birth region, family status, job industry, income, homeownership, time period and time on sick leave.


Unemployment after sickness absence was notably more common for Finnish speakers than for Swedish speakers. In the fully adjusted models, the odds ratios were 1.48 (95% confidence interval [CI] 1.23-1.67) in men and 1.29 (95% CI 1.07-1.48) in women. Disability pension, being outside the labour force and having died were also more frequent outcomes for Finnish speakers than for Swedish speakers, although most of this variation could be attributed to socio-economic and demographic characteristics.


The article illustrates that register-based analyses can be effective tools for assessing and identifying persons with latent problems that impede their functioning in the labour market. These findings also suggest that culturally related factors presumably play an important role in this concern.


Finland; Native groups; Register data; Sickness absence; Unemployment


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