This study aimed to investigate the association between serum levels of cortisol and dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEA-s) and sickness absence over 2 years in Japanese male workers.
A baseline survey including questions about health behavior, along with blood sampling for cortisol and DHEA-s, was conducted in 2009. In total, 429 men (mean ± SD age, 52.9 ± 8.6 years) from whom blood samples were collected at baseline were followed until December 31, 2011. The hazard ratios (HR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) for sickness absence were calculated using a Cox proportional hazard model, adjusted for potential confounders.
Among 35 workers who took sickness absences, 31 had physical illness. A high cortisol to DHEA-s ratio increased the risk of sickness absence (crude HR = 2.68, 95% CI 1.12–6.41; adjusted HR = 3.33, 95% CI 1.35–8.20). The cortisol to DHEA-s ratio was linearly associated with an increased risk of sickness absence (p for trend < .050). Single effects of cortisol and DHEA-s levels were not associated with sickness absences. This trend did not change when limited to absences resulting from physical illness.
Hormonal conditions related to the hypothalamus–pituitary–adrenocortical axis and adrenal function should be considered when predicting sickness absence. The cortisol to DHEA-s ratio may be more informative than single effects of cortisol and DHEA-s levels.