Study Finds Intelligent People Take Less Sick Leave

smart people less sick leaveWho goes on sick leave and why? A recently published British study offers a provocative answer, suggesting intelligence -- or lack thereof -- plays a major role. The researchers, writing in the journal BMJ Open, found that the better people performed on childhood intelligence tests, the less likely they were to end up on long-term sick leave as adults.

The longitudinal study involved more than 23,000 people, whose cognitive abilities were tested in 1946, 1958 or 1970. Among the 1946 groups, nearly half (47 percent) who wound up on long-term sick leave as adults had placed in the bottom quarter of childhood ability, while only 13 percent of those who ended up on leave were from the top quartile. The splits were similar for the later samples, though the difference between the quartiles were not quite as dramatic.

The ranking of cognitive ability was based on testing for both verbal and nonverbal intelligence. But the study found that measure to be insufficient on its own in predicting the likelihood of ending up on disability or sick leave, or the dole, as it's known in Britain. Wealth and education played a significant role, lessening the likelihood of landing on the dole. "There was some attenuation of the effect when adult social class and, particularly, educational attainment was included, and this attenuation was greater for those of lower cognitive ability," the study's authors, led by Max Henderson, wrote. "This suggests that some of the effect of lower cognitive ability is mediated by educational attainment."

What applicability does this research have to the United States? Hard to say, but research conducted in the U.S. has noted the link between good grades and good health. A 2010 report in The New York Times about the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study, which has been tracking the 1957 graduates of the state's high schools, noted that "those who had finished in the top quartile were, overall, half as likely to have experienced the declines in health that their peers who graduated in the lowest quartile were experiencing." The study has been following 10,000 people.


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Dan Fastenberg

Dan Fastenberg

Associate Editor

Dan Fastenberg was most recently a reporter with TIME Magazine. Previously, he was a writer for the Thomson Reuters news service's Latin America desk. He was also a reporter and associate editor for the Buenos Aires Herald while living in South America.

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hman570

Gee I didn't think you had to be smart to take sick days. What does this have to do with anything or is Huffington call us all dumb.

April 07 2012 at 8:30 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
carnut122

Maybe they did better on those intelligences tests as kids because they were already taking fewer sick days?

April 07 2012 at 8:12 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
toddisit

Next thing you know, the question-have you ever taken sick leave, will be appearing on job applications. It is already distasteful enough nowadays and studies like this will be adapted by human resource airheads everywhere.

April 07 2012 at 7:28 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Exhume

While their study may be true not all Sick Leave is for ones self. Your Spouse may develop a debilitating disease and could require you to miss a lot of work to care for her or your children. On the other hand we have people that can not go more than a week or two before calling in FMLA. They get twelve weeks a year for said condition and still end up using all of their allotted time by August-September. We use to joke about it and say "The Postal Service....pioneering the 3 day work week."

April 07 2012 at 6:18 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
randinoel

I absolutely with hjcritters. I have dated a man who was VILE about his work habits. He is clearly one of those "do my time and to hell with anyone" attitude. He takes about 4 sickdays a month but refuses to fix his health problems. Of course not! Im sure if you are getting paid for taking months off from work every year and cannot get fired due to being in a union, their is no incentive in getting better and fixing your health. People like myself, will work with a fever because I'm dedicated to my work, does not want another employee to have to arrive on their needed day off and I know I will not get paid. It's that simple.

April 07 2012 at 5:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to randinoel's comment
creagerlon

And people who go to work with fever give their ailments to other co-workers. If you have fever you are probably contagious. Please stay home!

April 07 2012 at 7:30 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
susankhorn

To WarehouseFlats, this article is about long term disability, not taking your allotted sick days. The article doesn't state why people with lower intelligence scores are more likely to need long term disability. Perhaps there is a correlation that those labeled with lower intelligence may not have/learned healthy living habits or may suffer from depression, because of a lack of opportunity. More research would need to be done. Also, WarehouseFlats, as a business owner, I am glad to offer my employees sick/personal leave as well as vacation time. I would prefer that employees take their sick leave as pre-planned time just so we are not short staffed -- however, I understand that employees and/or their children sometimes get sick at the last minute and we accept that. We do have some employees that are always sick on Mondays or right before/after a holiday. Abusers of the leave policy face disciplinary action or firing. Your bad attitude basically tells me that you would probably not last long at our company.

April 07 2012 at 5:28 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
WarehouseFlats

trust me, employer loyalty to employees is nonexistent. take as much sick leave as you are given.

April 07 2012 at 4:54 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to WarehouseFlats's comment
hjcritters

and you shall be unemployed... simple. Sick time is abused. "Mental Health" days are NOT acceptable reasons to call in. You're not just shafting the employer, you are screwing your co-workers. Most usually the ones that call in often are too self-centered to realise/care about that though....

April 07 2012 at 5:32 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to hjcritters's comment
creagerlon

You aren't "shafting" anyone if you are taking your allotted time. This is yet another thing wrong with the American work ethic. Overwork everyone until they are no longer capable of working. And no, they won't be unemployed. You are thinking too highly of your work importance. The place will not fall apart if you aren't there. Nor will your co-workers think less of you. Unless you abuse it. You have to take care of yourself. Your employer is certainly not going to. That is your job.

April 07 2012 at 7:35 PM Report abuse rate up rate down

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