Sick leave absences hit three-year high in Germany

Sick leave absences hit three-year high in Germany

Data published by the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) suggests that the number of people taking sick leave in Germany has reached a three-year high. Insufficient exposure to cold and flu germs during the coronavirus pandemic is thought to be partly responsible for the sickness wave.

Sick leave absences high in Germany

A report by the RKI has determined that the number of people taking sick leave in Germany has hit a three-year high. During the 2022 flu season, an estimated 9,5 million people took sick leave, notably more than in previous years. 

The reason for taking sick leave has also changed. Data from DAK, a statutory health insurance provider, shows that when it came to taking sick leave 2022, respiratory infections were most commonly named as the reason for absence. In comparison to November 2021, there were a third more respiratory infections registered and twice as many registered cases of flu and coronavirus.

A number of health professionals in Germany have suggested that the high case numbers could be caused by a “catch-up effect”. Because coronavirus measures were in place during the winters of 2020 and 2021, fewer people were exposed to cold and flu germs, meaning that only now are the minor illnesses common in autumn and winter catching up with people’s immune systems.

More people in Germany go to the doctor for a cold

But the data results published by the RKI are also likely due to the fact that many people in Germany would go to the doctor even if they only had minor cold or flu symptoms. 

According to the institute, enthusiasm for visiting the doctor differs across different German federal states. Mecklenburg-Vorpommern has the highest frequency of visits to the doctor per inhabitant (4.000 per 100.000 inhabitants), followed by Berlin and Brandenburg with 2.800, and Bavaria with 2.600. On the other end of the scale lies Saxony Anhalt with 1.900 visits per 100.000 inhabitants.

High numbers of sickness absences have also been leading to employee shortages across Germany. At the beginning of the week, when public transport in Berlin was set to begin its new schedule, locals were met with a spate of cancellations and delays, partly due to the sheer number of people working for the transport association who had called in sick.

Olivia Logan


Olivia Logan

Editor for Germany at IamExpat Media. Olivia first came to Germany in 2013 to work as an Au Pair. Since studying English Literature and German in Scotland, Freiburg and Berlin...

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