Do men or women take more sick days?

For all the jokes about “man flu”, a new study shows men take fewer days off sick than women. The average man, the research indicates, takes 140 sick days during his career, while a woman calls in sick 189 times.

However, according to the study of 1,000 male and 1,000 female workers in the UK commissioned by Benenden Healthcare Society, women are more likely to tough it out when they get minor ailments, while men stay at home at the first sneeze.

Lawrence Christensen, a spokesperson for Benenden Healthcare, a mutual healthcare organisation, said: “The age-old debate between the sexes continues as our research shows a difference between them when it comes to taking sick leave.

“While men are less likely to shake off the man flu and go to work, women do end up taking more sick days across their careers.

“They might succumb to illness more easily, but women come out on top when it comes to dedication to work. Many men will pick up the phone as soon as they feel a little under the weather, while women soldier on for longer,” said Mr Christensen.

Dr Tony Williams, consultant occupational physician at Benenden Hospital in Kent, said: “Everyone who goes off sick does so for a reason, but the reason is not always related to disease or illness.

“Women are usually the principal carer for children and if a child is sick they may take time off ‘sick’ to look after the child.”

According to the annual Absence and Workplace Health Survey by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and Pfizer, 190m working days were lost in 2010 – almost a third (32 per cent) due to long-term absence. The CBI estimates that the cost to the British economy of all absence last year was £17bn.

A possible problem with Benenden Healthcare’s research is that it is based on self-confession. Could it be that it is veracity as much as tendency to illness that varies between the sexes?

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Liz Bolshaw

Liz Bolshaw is a business journalist and editor. She has been a successful book publisher, online editor, magazine editor and publisher.

She was launch editor of the Europe-wide online community Entrepreneur Country, has published magazines for PwC, 3i, dunhill and Bafta, and launched The Sharp Edge, a magazine for and about entrepreneurs, with Duncan Bannatyne. She is a regular contributor to Thomson Reuters’ Venture Capital Journal.

Her last project for the Financial Times was as editor of the paper’s Business Education magazine.

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Andrew Hill is an associate editor and the management editor of the FT. He was City editor of the FT and editor of the daily Lombard column on British business and finance from September 2006 to December 2010.

He was the FT’s financial editor from June 2005 to September 2006, with overall responsibility for coverage of companies and markets. Before becoming financial editor, he was the FT’s comment & analysis editor, in charge of the paper’s opinion and features pages.

From 1999 to 2003, he was the FT’s New York bureau chief. He joined the FT in 1988 and has also worked as foreign news editor, UK companies reporter and correspondent in Brussels and Milan.

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Linda Tarr-Whelan, former ambassador to the UN commission on the status of women, is a Demos distinguished senior fellow.