Big five personality traits and physician-certified sickness absence
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Although several studies show that personality traits are associated with absenteeism, few large-scale studies have examined these relationships prospectively, integrating survey data and register data on sickness absence. This study examines whether personality is associated with sickness absence, and whether health factors, gender, age, type of occupation and job satisfaction moderate this relationship. We combine survey data assessing the Big Five personality traits from a large sample of Norwegian employees aged 18–62 years (N = 5,017) with register data on physician-certified sickness absence up to four years after. Negative binomial regression analyses showed that extraversion was positively associated with subsequent sickness absence when controlling for several covariates, including health, work factors and previous spells of sickness absence. Neuroticism showed also significant positive associations with sick leave; however, the association diminished when accounting for previous spells of sickness absence. Moderator analyses demonstrated that age and type of occupation affected some of the associations between personality and sickness absence. The findings indicate that—in addition to general health promotion measures—specific interventions targeting individuals high in extraversion may be beneficial in reducing sick leave. How socio-demographic and work-related factors moderate the relationship between personality and sickness absence may be an interesting future research area.