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17-06-2010 | Respiratory | Article

Asthma and allergic rhinitis linked to increased sickness absences


Free abstract

MedWire News: Workers with asthma, allergic rhinitis, or both conditions take significantly more days off work due to sickness than other employees, researchers have found.

The findings, published in the journal Respiratory Medicine, highlight the importance of effective treatment for allergic rhinitis and good asthma control to reduce the economic burden of these conditions.

Paula Kauppi (Helsinki University Hospital, Finland) and team studied data from the Finnish Public Sector Study on 48,296 local government employees from 10 towns and 21 hospitals.

Information on rhinitis and asthma rates was gathered from surveys completed by the participants in 2000–2002 and 2004.

Data on sickness absences over a mean follow-up period of 4 years were obtained from records kept by the participants’ employers.

Overall, 24.2% of participants reported a diagnosis of allergic rhinitis only, 1.8% had asthma only, and 4.7% had both conditions. The remaining 69.2% respondents had neither condition.

During the follow-up period, respondents with rhinitis took a mean of 17.6 sickness absence days per year, those with asthma took 23.8 sickness absence days, and those with both conditions took 24.2 days off work per year due to sickness.

In comparison, employees with neither condition took a mean of only 14.5 sickness absence days per year during the follow-up period.

After accounting for factors such as age, gender, socioeconomic status, smoking and obesity, the relative risks (RRs) for self-certified sickness absence (1–3 days) in patients with rhinitis, asthma, and both conditions combined were 1.20, 1.26, and 1.38, respectively, compared with patients with neither condition. The RRs of medically certified sickness absence (more than 3 days) for patients with rhinitis, asthma, and both conditions combined were 1.32, 1.60, and 1.73, respectively.

Further analysis showed that the impact of asthma and rhinitis combined on the risk of self-certified sickness absence was marginal compared with asthma alone.

Kauppi and team conclude: “This study found an increased risk of sickness absences for those employees who reported physician-diagnosed self-reported allergic rhinitis, asthma, or both of these conditions combined.”

They add: “These results indicate that both allergic rhinitis and asthma add to the economic burden of sick leave absenteeism affecting the employee, his or her employer and to society as a whole.”

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Current Medicine Group, a trading division of Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2010

By Mark Cowen

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