Danes work when they are ill more than any other European country

Most do so for the sake of their colleagues when they should really be at home

Denmark is at the top of the tree in Europe when it comes to going to work when ill, according to a new report by the University of Copenhagen.

The number of work days missed by Danes due to illness has dropped so considerably since the financial crisis took hold in 2007 that the tendency has bred the new term ‘sygenærvær’ (presenteeism).

But working while ill is a chancy proposition. The risk of developing a depression is doubled if do it eight times over the course of a year, the report revealed.

"If you go to work ill, it can affect your health in the long-term," Thomas Lund, a senior researcher at the Marselisborg Centre (the Danish Centre for Rehabilitation, Research and Development) in Aarhus, told DR Nyheder.

READ MORE: Over a third of Danes call in sick when they're not

Long-term ramifications
Lund went on to say that the risk of general long-term illness is 78 percent higher if you go to work ill more than five times a year.

“You encumber your physical and mental health in a way that you will pay the price later in life,” Lund said. “Your absentee stats might look good, but it’ll cost you in the long run. And it’s a hefty price to pay.”

The news comes just four years after a report by the EU analysis institute Eurofound revealed that most Danes worked when they were ill for the sake of their colleagues.

Abseentism used to be sky-high
However, that same report also found that absenteeism in the Danish public sector was among the highest in Europe with employees on average missing nine and a half days a week of work per year.

In comparison, Swedish public sector workers missed seven days per year on average, Norwegians eight days per year, and Austrians just 3.3 days. 

Furthermore, a survey compiled by YouGov for Metroxpress newspaper earlier this year showed that 38 percent of Danes have called in sick when they haven’t been.

Sometimes, the difference being ill and not being ill is blurred in Denmark. Internationals often find, when they first move here, that their definition of 'having the flu' or 'having pneumonia' differs wildly from their hosts, who tend to use the diagnosis when all they have is a common cold or lung infection respectively.