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Is the US Lack of National Paid Leave Killing Us?

Is the Lack of National Paid Leave Killing Us?

Sept. 7, 2022
A new survey shows that mortality could potentially decline by over 5% in large central metro counties if there was a 40-hour annual paid sick leave requirement.

While we normally shy away from sensational headlines, the conclusions of a study done by the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, released on August 29,  are quite startling.  

The researchers reviewed deaths by county from 1999-2019 among adults between the ages of 25-64. That data, which was from the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Vital Statistics System, was used to estimate associations between these death counts and paid sick leave requirements.

The finding looked at both homicide and suicide rates and found that where there were laws requiring paid sick leave, both homicide and suicide death rates for men declined. For women deaths due to homicide and alcohol declined. 

Lack of paid sick leave increases both economic hardship and even job loss the study notes. It can also lead to risky behaviors including drug use. 

The solution the study recommends is a national policy of paid sick leave. The U.S. is one of the few countries without such a policy.  Linking this policy for a better outcome, the study concludes that moving from no sick leave to 40 hours would lead to a decline in homicide mortality of more than 13% for women and 8% for men. 

This difference is so dramatic that researchers are calling for a closer look at state laws that prevent such mandatory leave. In an article in medcitynews, the author provides examples of counties -- Orange County in Florida, Bexar in Dallas and Travis county in Texas-- that had tried to mandate paid sick leave but were prevented from doing so by state interference. 

 “We were surprised by how large the ‘preemption effect’ for paid sick leave mandates turned out to be," said co-investigator Jennifer Karas Montez, Ph.D., Aging Studies Institute and Center for Aging and Policy Studies and Department of Sociology, Syracuse University,  said in a statement. "We project that mortality could potentially decline by over 5% in large central metro counties currently constrained by preemption laws if they were able to mandate a 40-hour annual paid sick leave requirement.

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