Central and Northern European countries top the league when it comes to taking time off work, reveals a survey of 15 European Union (EU) member states reported in Occupational and Environmental Medicine.
And, overall, men take more time off work than women, the survey shows.
The Third European Survey on Working Conditions tracked employee absenteeism due to sickness in the 15 member states then part of the EU in 2000.
At that time, the member states included Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Italy, the UK, Spain, Denmark, France, Belgium, Austria, Sweden, Luxembourg, Germany, the Netherlands, and Finland.
The survey included a random and representative sample of employees in each country, amounting to 21,703. Once trainees and those with incomplete information were excluded, the analysis was based on 16, 257 employees.
Sickness absence was classified as at least one day off work in the preceding 12 months because of occupational injury or other health problems.
The rates of sickness absence were calculated as the proportion of the total employed workforce taking at least one day off for health reasons.
The average proportion of the employed EU workforce off sick was 14.5%, but this varied from 6.7% in Greece, which had the lowest rates, to 24% in Finland, which had the highest rates of all 15 countries.
Behind Finland came the Netherlands at 20.3% and Germany at 18.3%.
Generally, southern European countries reported less sickness absence than northern and central European countries, although Ireland had one of the lowest rates at 8.3%.
The UK also had the fifth lowest rate of sickness absence at 11.7%, less than half that of Finland. France was roughly in the middle with a rate of 14.3%.
Men were more likely to take sickness absence than women across the 15 countries, with Greece, Austria, and Luxembourg, showing a sharp gender divide.
In most other countries the difference was less pronounced, but in Finland and Sweden women took more days off sick than men.