Smoking and absence from work: Systematic review and meta-analysis of occupational studies

Stephen F. Weng*, Shehzad Ali, Jo Leonardi-Bee

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

58 Citations (Scopus)


Aims: This study aimed to assess the association between smoking and absenteeism in working adults. Methods: A systematic review and meta-analysis was performed by electronic database searches in MEDLINE, EMBASE, CAB Abstracts, PubMed, Science Direct and National Health Service Economic Evaluation Database (February 2012). Longitudinal, prospective cohorts or retrospective cohorts were included in the review. Summary effect estimates were calculated using random-effects meta-analysis. Heterogeneity was assessed by I2 and publication bias was investigated. Results: A total of 29 longitudinal or cohort studies were included. Compared with non-smokers, current smokers had a 33% increase in risk of absenteeism [95% confidence interval (CI): 1.25-1.41; I2=62.7%; 17 studies]. Current smokers were absent for an average of 2.74 more days per year compared with non-smokers (95% CI: 1.54-3.95; I2=89.6%; 13 studies). Compared with never smokers, ex-smokers had a 14% increase in risk of absenteeism (95% CI: 1.08-1.21; I2=62.4%; eight studies); however, no increase in duration of absence could be detected. Current smokers also had a 19% increase in risk of absenteeism compared with ex-smokers (95% CI: 1.09-1.32, P<0.01, eight studies). There was no evidence of publication bias. The total cost of absenteeism due to smoking in the United Kingdom was estimated to be £1.4 billion in 2011. Conclusions: Quitting smoking appears to reduce absenteeism and result in substantial cost-savings for employers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)307-319
Number of pages13
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Absenteeism
  • Meta-analysis
  • Productivity loss
  • Smoking
  • Systematic review
  • Work-place


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