Taylor & Francis (Routledge)
The aim of this study was to determine the relationship between work hours and sickness absence: is a higher number of work hours associated with better or with adverse health? A systematic literature review was performed by searching Medline, PsychInfo, and Web of Science. All abstracts were screened to identify papers that empirically investigated the relationship between work hours and sickness absence in a working population. A total of 1072 papers were identified, and 70 papers were included in this review. A simple measure of the strength of effects was applied, and the findings are summarised in narrative form. Evidence supporting a relationship between sickness absence and working part-time or work hours as a continuous variable was inconclusive. These inconclusive findings might be due to heterogeneity in the operationalisation of key variables or to publication bias. Support for a negative relationship between long work hours and sickness absence was moderately strong. Possible explanations for this include the healthy worker selection effect, differences in job characteristics, and differences in job motivation. Empirical testing of these explanations, however, has been limited. Our findings indicate that employers should monitor employee health in times of high work pressure, even if sickness absence is low.