Smokers take eight days more sick leave per year

Smokers take on average nearly eight days more sick leave per year than non-smoking colleagues, according to a Swedish study published on Thursday in the British health journal Tobacco Control.

The study looked at data on absence for sickness among more than 14,000 workers between 1988 and 1991.

Across the sample, the average total of days taken as sick leave was 25.

Current smokers accounted for 29 percent of the sample, compared to 26 percent for former smokers and 45 percent who had never smoked.

Smokers took 34 days off per year on sick leave on average, “never” smokers took 20 days and former smokers took 25 days.

The gap between smokers and former/never smokers was reduced to just under eight days when factors such as socio-economic background, alcohol use and obesity were taken into account.

Sweden has the highest sickness-absence rate among industrialised countries.

According to the latest Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) figures, Sweden loses 25 working days per employee per year due to sickness, compared to nine in the United States.

Even so, the evidence points to smoking as having a clear impact on productivity beyond Sweden, the study says.

The author of the paper is Petter Lundborg, an economist at Free University Amsterdam in the Netherlands.