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Nurses' illness perceptions during presenteeism and absenteeism

Fiorini, Luke; Houdmont, J.; Griffiths, Amanda


Luke Fiorini

Amanda Griffiths


Presenteeism has been linked with lost productivity, impaired health and absence. Whilst much research has focused on types of diseases associated with presenteeism and absenteeism, there has been little investigation into the role of individuals’ illness perceptions in these episodes.

To assess how illness perceptions vary between presenteeism and absenteeism episodes.

A cross-sectional questionnaire was distributed to ward-based nurses working with older adults. Data on illness perceptions during presenteeism and absenteeism episodes were collected. Data were analysed via the Paired-Samples t-test, Wilcoxon test and McNemar test.

Two hundred and seventy cases were analysed (88% response rate). Compared with presenteeism, illnesses during absenteeism were thought to affect lives more (P ≤ 0.001), to have more serious symptoms (P ≤ 0.001), to be more concerning (P = 0.003), more likely to be treated (P = 0.009), more infectious (P ≤ 0.001) and perceived as more legitimate reasons for absenteeism (P ≤ 0.001). Treatment was considered more effective during absenteeism (P < 0.001), whilst workability was better during presenteeism (P ≤ 0.001). Presenteeism was perceived as harmful and absenteeism beneficial for illness. Individuals attended work when presenteeism was expected to be less harmful (P ≤ 0.001) and avoided work when absenteeism was expected to be more beneficial for illness (P ≤ 0.001).

Illness perceptions varied significantly between presenteeism and absenteeism episodes and should be included in models of illness behaviour. Findings also highlight that policy may influence illness behaviour and that nurses may attend work despite concerning levels of illness.


Fiorini, L., Houdmont, J., & Griffiths, A. (2020). Nurses' illness perceptions during presenteeism and absenteeism. Occupational Medicine, 70(2), 101–106.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Dec 20, 2019
Online Publication Date Jan 21, 2020
Publication Date 2020-03
Deposit Date Jan 7, 2020
Publicly Available Date Jan 22, 2021
Journal Occupational Medicine
Print ISSN 0962-7480
Electronic ISSN 1471-8405
Publisher Oxford University Press
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 70
Issue 2
Pages 101–106
Keywords Absenteeism, illness behaviour, nurses, presenteeism, sick leave
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information This is a pre-copyedited, author-produced version of an article accepted for publication in Occupational Medicine following peer review. The version of record L A Fiorini, J Houdmont, A Griffiths, Nurses’ illness perceptions during presenteeism and absenteeism, Occupational Medicine, Volume 70, Issue 2, March 2020, Pages 101–106 is available online at:


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