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Mental distress more prevalent in workers without paid sick leave: study

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Boca Raton, FL – Workers who do not get paid sick leave may experience a level of psychological distress that interferes with their daily lives and activities, according to a study by Florida Atlantic University and Cleveland State University researchers.

Using data from 17,897 respondents to the National Health Interview Survey, as well as the Kessler Psychological Distress Scale (K6), researchers found that workers without paid sick leave reported symptoms of psychological distress 1.45 times more often than workers with the benefit.

Workers most affected by the lack of paid sick leave, according to a press release from FAU, were young, Hispanic, low-income and poorly educated. About 40 percent of respondents to the NHIS did not have the benefit.

“For many Americans, daily life itself can be a source of stress as they struggle to manage numerous responsibilities, including health-related issues,” Patricia Stoddard-Dare, study lead author and associate professor of social work at CSU, said in the release. “Making matters worse, for those who lack paid sick leave, a day away from work can mean lost wages or even fear of losing one’s job. These stressors combined with other sources of stress have the potential to interfere with workplace performance and impact overall mental health.”

Only seven states require mandatory paid sick leave, while 15 have passed pre-emptive laws prohibiting municipalities from crafting sick leave regulations, the release states. On Sept. 28, Rhode Island became the eighth state to require the benefit.

“Results from our research will help employers as they think about strategies to reduce psychological stress in their employees such as implementing or expanding access to paid sick days,” Stoddard-Dare said in the release. “Clinicians also can use these findings to help their patients and clients, as can legislators who are actively evaluating the value of mandating paid sick leave.”

The study was published in the American Journal of Orthopsychiatry.

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