Worker Absenteeism and Employment Outcomes: A Literature Review

Kathleen J. Mullen, Stephanie Rennane

NBER Disability Research Center Paper No. NB 17-20
Issued in September 2017

We conducted a comprehensive literature review of peer-reviewed articles and other relevant publications on absenteeism and presenteeism. First, we outline the main features of absenteeism and presenteeism that would be most important to understanding their role in transitions to SSDI. Then, we discuss the current state of the literature on each of these factors. We follow this with a synthesis of common themes that arise across the multiple sub-topics we analyze, and assess remaining gaps in the literature that would benefit from future research. Several common themes emerge. First, the baseline rate of absenteeism and presenteeism for healthy workers is fairly low. Presenteeism in the workplace tends to be more prevalent than absenteeism and could be more costly to the employer. Second, mental health conditions are particularly predictive of higher rates of both absenteeism and presenteeism. Third, absenteeism and presenteeism rates and patterns vary significantly across various health conditions and worker characteristics. And finally, benefit programs have a significant impact both on individuals’ propensity to be absent, and on the duration of their absences.

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