Workplace social capital and risk of long-term sickness absence. Are associations modified by occupational grade?

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Background: Workplace social capital (WSC) is an emerging topic among both work environment professionals and researchers. We examined (i) whether high WSC protected against risk of long-term sickness absence (LTSA) in a random sample of the Danish workforce during a 1-year follow-up and (ii) whether the association of WSC with sickness absence was modified by occupational grade. Methods: We measured WSC by self-report in a cohort of 3075 employees and linked responses to a national register of sickness absence. We calculated hazard ratios (HRs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) of onset of LTSA (21 days), adjusted for covariates. We stratified analyses by occupational grade and examined if there was an interaction effect of WSC and occupational grade. Results: A one standard deviation higher WSC score predicted a reduced risk of sickness absence after adjustment for sociodemographic variables, prevalent health problems and health behaviours (HR = 0.85, 95% CI = 0.74–0.99). The HR was attenuated and lost statistical significance after further adjustment for occupational grade (HR = 0.90, 95% CI = 0.78–1.04). When stratified by occupational grade, high WSC predicted a decreased risk of sickness absence among higher grade workers (HR = 0.61, 95% CI = 0.44–0.84) but not among lower grade workers (HR = 0.98, 95% CI = 0.83–1.15). The interaction effect of WSC and occupational grade was statistically significant (HR = 0.97, 95% CI = 0.95–0.99).
Conclusion: High WSC might reduce risk of LTSA. However, the protective effect appears to be limited to workers of higher occupational grade.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Journal of Public Health
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)328-333
Number of pages6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2016

ID: 162606414