A Daily Telegraph article is headlined "Women take more sick days than men".

It cites a recent (2011) unnamed report:

Yesterday Lawrence Christensen, of leading mutual healthcare organisation Benenden Healthcare Society, which commissioned the report, said: "The age-old debate between the sexes continues as our research shows a difference between them when it comes to taking sick leave.


The representative study of 1,000 men and 1,000 women quizzed them on their attitudes and behaviours towards feeling ill, having to take time off work and drew gender comparisons.


It found the average adult takes three and a half days off work a year because of illness - or 141 during their working life - with men taking 140 and women, 189.

Does the pattern of women taking more sick days than men generalize beyond their sample?

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    Just a point- taking a sick day does not necessarily translate into being sick. That article points out that women are more likely to take time off if their kids are ill. – PointlessSpike Oct 13 '14 at 12:53
  • @PointlessSpike, Agreed. Anecdotally, not counting my vacation, I've taken more days of PTO than I've been sick. – Brian S Oct 13 '14 at 13:38
  • Maybe I'm not understanding the statistics right, but if seems like if the average for men was so close to the average for everybody, and the average for women was so far off, that would imply there are a tiny number of women in the workplace - something like 1 for every 50 men – raptortech97 Oct 13 '14 at 13:49
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    I suspected that the Daily Telegraph had mangled the results. I found the original media release that the Daily Telegraph churnalised - it has the same weird numbers, and the same lack of reference to the original study. – Oddthinking Oct 13 '14 at 15:29
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    "Does the pattern of women taking more sick days than men generalize beyond their sample?" - So, if I cite studies that show Swedish women in 1985 took more sick leave than men, would that be sufficient to answer the question? It feels like cheating somehow. There has been extensive research (esp in Scandinavia?) considering lots of factors - e.g. the women/men sick leave ratio climbs when heavy lifting is involved or when it is a male-dominated field. There are many such factors that affect the rates. – Oddthinking Oct 13 '14 at 15:42

The best place to look for this kind of information is France.

INSEE study published in May 2008 - n°408-409:

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  • Reference: Chaupain-Guillot, Sabine, Olivier Guillot, and François-Charles Wolff. "Les absences au travail: une analyse à partir des données françaises du Panel européen des ménages; suivi d'un commentaire de François-Charles Wolff." Economie et statistique 408.1 (2007): 45-80.

D'après les chiffres de la dernière vague d'enquête française du Panel européen des ménages, réalisée à l'automne 2001, un salarié sur dix a été au moins un jour absent de son travail, pour raisons de santé ou non, au cours des quatre dernières semaines. Durant la période 1994-2001, cette proportion a peu varié. Les femmes sont un peu plus nombreuses que les hommes à s'absenter. Ce constat vaut pour l'ensemble des absences comme pour les seuls arrêts maladie. Toutefois, s'agissant du nombre d'épisodes de maladie ou du nombre total de jours de maladie au cours des douze derniers mois, il n'y a guère de différence entre hommes et femmes. Pour analyser les effets des caractéristiques individuelles sur la probabilité d'absence au travail, séparément chez les hommes et chez les femmes, des régressions sur données en coupe (2001) et sur données longitudinales (1998-2001) ont été mises en oeuvre. Trois facteurs ont un rôle déterminant : l'état de santé, le degré de satisfaction dans l'emploi et, chez les femmes, les contraintes de conciliation entre vie familiale et vie professionnelle. Dans le cas des hommes, on observe une relation négative entre le salaire horaire estimé et la probabilité d'avoir été en arrêt maladie, à un moment ou un autre, durant les douze derniers mois. Chez les femmes, en revanche, la probabilité d'absence ne semble guère dépendre du niveau de rémunération.


Women are slightly more likely than men to be absent . This applies to all absences as well as sick leave taken separately. However, regarding the number of episodes of illness or the total number of sick days in the last twelve months, there is little difference between men and women.

(man = homme, woman = femme, man + woman = ensemble, number of days = nombre de jours)

enter image description here

Another reference: Inan, C. "Les absences au travail des salariés pour raisons de santé: un rôle important des conditions de travail." Dares analyses 9 (2013): 1-10.

Les femmes sont plus touchées par le phénomène que les hommes, quel que soit leur âge.


Women are most affected by the phenomenon than men, which  of age .

Proportion of employees absent for health reasons by age and sex:

enter image description here

  • Can you specify the data source? How where the participants selected? – Christian Oct 14 '14 at 22:24
  • Data source of the two studies: INSEE. Not sure how participants were selected. – Franck Dernoncourt Oct 14 '14 at 22:28

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