Press release

A high peak of sickness characterises the end of the work year

2023-12-11: After a trend of sick leave during the autumn that has steadily pointed upwards, we have now reached this year's peak of sick leave and care of a sick child. The trend follows the new pattern we have seen after the pandemic, where the traditional peak in February has been replaced by a new peak in December. This is shown by recent figures from Falck's Sick and Healthy service, the most comprehensive and up-to-date tool for analysing absence statistics in Sweden.

– Before the pandemic, February was consistently the month of the year with the highest sickness rates. Now, for the third year in a row, we see another trend, that the highest peak in sickness has occurred in December, says Maria Steneskog Nyman, behavioural science advisor and head of Falck's Sickness and Wellness service.

Chart showing the absence registration rate in % per week in 2023
Diagram 1. Registration rate in % per week in 2023

The statistics come from Falck's Sickness and Wellness Service, which covers 155,000 employees at 450 companies and public organizations throughout Sweden and refers to new sick leave and care of a sick child regardless of industry. Notification of sickness, care of a sick child (vab) and recovery is made by phone or online and includes medical advice and follow-up of sick leave.

The increase in sickness absences has been rapid in recent weeks. However, the rate is not yet at the level of the peaks seen in 2021 and 2022. This week, too, we see the first signs of a pause in the rising curve.

– We continue to have a high inflow of sick leave. But hopefully, we have still landed on a plateau with a downward trend in terms of new cases during the Christmas holidays. In the best-case scenario, this means that we will not reach the high sickness rates that have characterised the end of December over the past two years, says Maria Steneskog Nyman.

opening quote

Nu ser vi för tredje året i rad en annan trend, att den högsta sjuktoppen infunnit sig i december

Chart showing the absence registration rate in % per week. Averages in 2015-2019, 2020, 2021, 2022 and 2023
Diagram 2. Rate of non-attendance reported in % per week. Averages in 2015-2019, 2020, 2021, 2022 and 2023

Since the autumn school break, week 44, sickness absence has risen sharply for a number of reasons. Cold symptoms and care of a sick child are the top causes. However, influenza is the cause that has increased the most between weeks 44-49.

– Those who contact us now report fever, cough and sore throat to a large extent, a lot with diagnosed covid, but also a lot who state that they think they have covid. And considering the symptoms described by those who contact us, we dare to say that it is covid that is often the hidden reason for absence, says Maria Steneskog Nyman. 

Between weeks 44 and 49 alone, flu symptoms have increased by over 100%. During the same period, cold symptoms have increased by 30% and care of a sick child by 45%, while absences for headaches have decreased slightly. Stomach flu has increased by as much as 83%, albeit from low levels. The general increase in the number of sick leave cases during the same period has been 34%.

Chart showing absence registration rate in percentage by leave type. Five most common reasons for absence.
Diagram 3. Absence registration rate as a percentage per leave type. Five most common reasons for absence.

About Falck

With 1,000 experts at nearly 100 units across the country, Falck is Sweden's most complete provider of health and working life services. We offer occupational health care, crisis and employee support, transition and career services, as well as primary health care and health services for private individuals. Our health and working life services reach 1.2 million people across Sweden and contribute to a sustainable working life and private life for all. 

Previa, Sweden's largest occupational health service, has been part of the Falck Group since 2014. In January 2023, Previa ceased to exist as a name and brand, and the former Previa is now completely under the Falck brand.

For more information, please contact  

Sandra Ahlstrand, Communications Officer, +46 (0)70 635 89 62,

Peter Skald, Head of Communications, +46 (0)70 413 0813,