To provide a wide and thorough description of sickness absence (SA) in Spain, focussing on the different regions of the country and the main characteristics of SA.
A study of the SA spells in Spain, managed by the medical units of the National Institute of Social Security in 2018. The geographical scope of this observational study is the regions (Autonomous Community). Incidence, prevalence, and average duration SA in employees and self-employed are described. The study also describes the differences between non-work-related SA and work-related SA. In age and sex variables, the incidence and the average duration are described. The average duration by Diagnostic Chapters (International Classification of Diseases, 10 Revision (ICD-10)) and the highest number of SA spells by occupational activity and diagnosis are analysed.
A total of 540 045 SA spells are analysed by non-work-related SA and 63 441 by work-related SA. The national average prevalence in non-work-related SA spells is 32.98/1000 among employed and 30.48/1000 among self-employed; in work-related SA spells, the prevalence is 3.99/1000. The national incidence in non-work-related SA spells is 24.8/1000 for employees and 9.51/1000 for self-employed workers; in work-related SA spells the incidence is 3.55/1000. The average duration is 58.67 days, with the longest duration being neoplasms and the shortest corresponding to infectious disease. The Community of Madrid shows the lowest prevalence, incidence and average duration in work-related SA. Influenza is the diagnosis that generates the largest number of SA spells. Activities of call centres and temporary employment agency activities are the occupations that have the highest number of SA spells.
The biggest differences are found in the incidence and average duration, between the non-work-related SA spells and work-related SA. If those characteristics of the SA in which a region is more in deficit are known, it will be possible to do better management of the SA.

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