Objective. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the association between asthma status and the occurrence and length of work absences among the US working adults. Methods. A cross-sectional study was conducted using the 2008 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS). Employed respondents between ages 18 and 55 years were included. The association between asthma status (whether respondents have asthma or not) and occurrence of absences and the length of time per absence was evaluated using a two-part model. A multivariate logistic regression as the first part of the model was to estimate the probability of being absent from work at least once during the observation period as a function of asthma status. A multivariate negative binomial regression as the second part of the model was used to assess whether the length of each absence from work was associated with asthma status among respondents who reported at least one absence from work. Sociodemographic, socioeconomic, employment-related, health status, and comorbidity variables were included in each model as covariates. Results. Of 12,161 respondents, 8.2 reported having asthma, which accounted for 10.4 million working adults in the United States in 2008. Employed adults with asthma were more likely to report having at least one absence from work compared to those without asthma in bivariate analyses (26.2 vs. 16.2, p <.01). After adjusting for the number of comorbid chronic conditions and other covariates, there was no significant difference between having asthma and absenteeism among respondents (odds ratio (OR) 1.31, 95 confidence interval (CI) 0.991.72, rate ratio (RR) 1.25, 95 CI 0.911.72). Conclusions. Overall burden of illness as measured by comorbidity indices and perceived health status, but not asthma alone, contributes to absenteeism as well as the number of days off during each occurrence among employed people. It is important for health services researchers to consider overall burden of illness when examining the association between a general outcome such as absence from work and specific conditions such as asthma.
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