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Open Access Research article

Sickness presenteeism in Spanish-born and immigrant workers in Spain

Andrés A Agudelo-Suárez123*, Fernando G Benavides14, Emily Felt1, Elena Ronda-Pérez124, Carmen Vives-Cases24 and Ana M García1456

Author Affiliations

1 Centre for Research in Occupational Health, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona, Spain

2 Preventive Medicine and Public Health Area, University of Alicante, Alicante, Spain

3 Faculty of Dentistry, University of Antioquia, Medellin, Colombia

4 CIBER Epidemiology and Public Health, Spain

5 Department of Preventive Medicine and Public Health, University of Valencia, Valencia, Spain

6 Trade Union Institute for Work, Environment and Health (ISTAS), Spain

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BMC Public Health 2010, 10:791  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-10-791

Published: 29 December 2010

Abstract

Background

Previous studies have shown that immigrant workers face relatively worse working and employment conditions, as well as lower rates of sickness absence than native-born workers. This study aims to assess rates of sickness presenteeism in a sample of Spanish-born and foreign-born workers according to different characteristics.

Methods

A cross-sectional survey was conducted amongst a convenience sample of workers (Spanish-born and foreign-born), living in four Spanish cities: Barcelona, Huelva, Madrid and Valencia (2008-2009). Sickness presenteeism information was collected through two items in the questionnaire ("Have you had health problems in the last year?" and "Have you ever had to miss work for any health problem?") and was defined as worker who had a health problem (answered yes, first item) and had not missed work (answered no, second item). For the analysis, the sample of 2,059 workers (1,617 foreign-born) who answered yes to health problems was included. After descriptives, logistic regressions were used to establish the association between origin country and sickness presenteeism (adjusted odds ratios aOR; 95% confidence interval 95%CI). Analyses were stratified per time spent in Spain among foreign-born workers.

Results

All of the results refer to the comparison between foreign-born and Spanish-born workers as a whole, and in some categories relating to personal and occupational conditions. Foreign-born workers were more likely to report sickness presenteeism compared with their Spanish-born counterparts, especially those living in Spain for under 2 years [Prevalence: 42% in Spanish-born and 56.3% in Foreign-born; aOR 1.77 95%CI 1.24-2.53]. In case of foreign-born workers (with time in Spain < 2 years), men [aOR 2.31 95%CI 1.40-3.80], those with university studies [aOR 3.01 95%CI 1.04-8.69], temporary contracts [aOR 2.26 95%CI 1.29-3.98] and salaries between 751-1,200€ per month [aOR 1.74 95% CI 1.04-2.92] were more likely to report sickness presenteeism. Also, recent immigrants with good self-perceived health and good mental health were more likely to report presenteeism than Spanish-born workers with the same good health indicators.

Conclusions

Immigrant workers report more sickness presenteeism than their Spanish-born counterparts. These results could be related to precarious work and employment conditions of immigrants. Immigrant workers should benefit from the same standards of social security, and of health and safety in the workplace that are enjoyed by Spanish workers.