Each year, American workers miss more than half a billion days due to illness and injury. While taking a sick day can sometimes not be avoided, a number of studies have shown that certain health conditions and behaviors dramatically increase the likelihood of workers missing work due to illness or disability. These conditions and behaviors include obesity, hypertension, diabetes, and smoking.
Across the country, the prevalence of these factors vary considerably, directly affecting the amount of sick days workers take. While state-level sick day figures are not readily available, 24/7 Wall St. created an index of four measures to approximate the likelihood workers will take a sick day in every state.
To best estimate sick days, rather than the aforementioned conditions, the index comprises factors that directly correlate with missed work. These include self-reported poor mental and physical health, the share of workers on disability, and state-level estimates of the total cost of sick days. States are ranked from the estimated fewest sick days to the most.
States where we estimate workers miss the most time also have among the highest rates of these conditions, including obesity, diabetes, smoking rates, hypertension, and poor exercise habits.
Missed work is often due to temporary illness. Notably, work absences meaningfully spike during flu season. However, poor health is usually a compounding factor, and those who suffer from many chronic conditions also are more likely to come down with temporary illnesses, such as the flu, and be severely affected by them.