Special Report

Workers Taking the Most Sick Days

Sick days are estimated to cost the U.S. economy $84 billion each year. According to the latest data released in a joint study by Gallup and Healthways, some professions miss substantially more time each month due to sickness than others.

Doctors miss roughly one day every four months due to illness. Those working in the service industry, on the other hand, miss almost one day every two months. These are the jobs in which workers take the most and least sick days.

Click here to see who takes the most (and fewest) sick days

It would make sense that Americans miss work days because they are sick. And to some extent that is true. Physicians, who miss by far the least amount of work due to sickness, are by far the healthiest. However, doctors appear to be an exception.

In fact, some of the professions that rarely call in sick are among the least healthy. More people working in the farming, forestry and fishing industry have health problems preventing them from doing things appropriate for their age group than any other occupation, according to the study. Despite their poor health, they miss an average of just one day every four months, the second least among the 14 job categories measured. Meanwhile, nurses, clerical workers and service workers report average or above average health but miss the most days from work due to illness.

Unreliable salary also makes it less likely that workers will take time off. Many professions that miss relatively more days, such as nurses and office workers, are often salaried positions with allotted sick days. Workers in installation and repair jobs, who miss relatively little time, are much more likely to be paid per service roles. “If you’re in a low income situation that is coupled with a job that requires punching in,” Gallup’s Dan Witters suggested, “you’re going to be highly motivated to show up for work whether you’re in good physical health or not.”

Based on data provided by Gallup-Healthways as part of their Well-Being Index survey, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the average number of days per month missed because of poor health in each of 14 major professional categories. We reviewed a variety of other data provided by the group as part of its 2012 Well-Being Index. The data are based on a survey of 94,000 Americans between January 2 and September 10, 2012. All responses are for those who worked 30 hours or more per week.