Sickness absence indicating depressive symptoms of working population in South Korea

Cheolmin Shin, Young Hoon Ko, Seoyoung Yoon, Sang Won Jeon, Chi Un Pae, Yong Ku Kim, Ashwin A. Patkar, Changsu Han

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    2 Citations (Scopus)


    Background Sickness absence has been regarded as an important indicator of workers' health and work productivity. This study is aimed to evaluate the association between depressive symptoms and sickness absence in workers of South Korea. Methods We used nationwide cross-sectional survey data from 2889 individuals in the working population aged over 19 years in South Korea. Depressive symptoms were measured using Patient Health Questionnaire-9 (PHQ-9). Those respondents who scored above 10 on PHQ-9 were regarded as having depressive symptoms. Sickness absence was considered a binary variable with an absence of at least 1 day in the past month. The survey instrument contained questions about sociodemographic factors, lifestyle, work-related factors, and chronic illnesses. Logistic regression models were used to find odds ratios and confidence intervals. Results The prevalence of sickness absence was found to be overall 4.6%. The adjusted odds ratio of sickness absence with depressive symptoms (PHQ-9 score ≥ 10) was 3.63 (Confidence Interval: 2.13–6.20) after controlling of possible confounders. Compared to minimal depressive symptoms (PHQ-9 < 5), the differences between other types of severity of depressive symptoms (mild, moderate, and moderately severe) in terms of mean of all sickness absences were more significant. Limitation The sickness absence based on the memory of the respondent in this study may result in a recall bias. Conclusions Incidence of at least 1 day of sickness absence per month increased the risk of depressive symptoms after controlling for the possible confounding factors in general working population. It may be necessary to consider strategies for assessing depression in the workers who take sick leaves.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)443-449
    Number of pages7
    JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
    Publication statusPublished - 2018 Feb


    • Depression
    • Depressive symptoms
    • General working population
    • Korea National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey
    • Sick leave
    • Sickness absence

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Clinical Psychology
    • Psychiatry and Mental health


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