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The Importance of Work Place Stressors and Employee Experiences for Sickness Absence in Norwegian Hospitals

The health and social sector is a labor-intensive sector that suffers from Norway's highest registered sickness absence. To better meet demands for workers, it is necessary to maintain the health and wellbeing of the workforce. In the current project, we will focus on specific stressors expected to influence employee sickness absence, namely internal organizational changes, work shifts and work hours - and how employees own experiences impact the relationship.

Exhausted doctor

Photo: colourbox

About the project

The aim of the current project is to investigate the interaction between exposure to objective stressors at work (i.e. organizational change, work hours and shift work), employees' subjective experience of the work environment (e.g. demands, control, opportunity for growth) , and sickness absence, in a large Norwegian health trust.

The health and social sector suffers from Norway's highest registered sickness absence. At the same time, several aspects of the working conditions in the sector are expected to be particularly straining, including stressors such as shift work outside of normal hours and a high frequency of organizational changes. Investigating how the employees experiences at work mediates and/or moderates the relationship between objective stressors and sickness absence will likely provide valuable information about why the stressors influence sickness absence, and why some employees are affected more than others.

We will collect data on the stressors, sickness absence, and employee experiences from different sources, from Oslo University Hospital. Data will be analyzed at group level, including approximately 1000 hospital units identifiable over time from 2011 to 2014. The use of group-level data will be of importance to be able to focus on organizational characteristics (e.g. amount of work pressure in a unit), rather than individual characteristics (e.g. how much overtime do one employee choose to work). The longitudinal design, and data from independent data sources, will be vital in the pursuit of causal interaction. Nonetheless, central R&D challenges will include assessing the appropriateness of aggregating different data sources and discussing alternative explanations to the causal inferences proposed.

The project will provide valuable information to managers and policy makers aiming to organize work in a health-promoting manner. The project will provide information to enhance our understanding of why stressors influences sickness absence.

Download PDF with more details on the project.


The Research Council of Norway, from the research program on Sickness Absence, Work and Health.



  • Anniken Fossland Grønstad, (2017) "Exploring work-related attributions of sickness absence during organizational change: A scoping review", International Journal of Workplace Health Management , Vol. 10 Issue: 3, pp.192-212, doi: 10.1108/IJWHM-03-2016-0012

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Published Sep. 26, 2014 2:22 PM - Last modified Feb. 17, 2020 10:14 AM