Why do women take more sick leave than men?

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According to new research, women take 50% more sick leave than men. ScienceDaily reports on a study about to come out in Occupational and Environmental Medicine that the work patterns of 7,000 workers in Helsinki between 2002 and 2005 showed women take far more short-term sick leave, but no more long-term leave.

Physical health problems, physical work demands, and work fatigue were more commonly reported by women. And they were 46% more likely than men to call in sick for short periods of a few days (self certified sick leave).

Why? The researchers speculate:

Women may be better at recognising problems and going to the doctor for treatment.

But according to another ScienceDaily report last September,

Male patients are given more certified sick leave by male doctors compared with the amount of sick notes given to females by female doctors, a University of Liverpool study has revealed.

Why? The researchers in that study mused,

Male patients may be more demanding, or better negotiators, when facing a male GP. What is not clear is whether this group do indeed have relatively greater problems, poorer coping skills, or are more sympathetically dealt with by male than female GPs.

Hmm. But neither study factors in what I suspect is a primary reason women use sick leave: when their children are sick. Moms are far more likely to be the one to stay home from the office if their kid spikes a fever. And most offices don’t allot family sick days. I suppose FMLA technically fits that bill, but how many workers bother to apply when it’s just one or two days? Am I right?

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