Sick day survey: Young adults more likely call out of work upon very first sign of illness

NEW YORK — Nearly half of Americans feel bad calling out of work when they’re sick, according to a new survey. In fact, the poll of 2,000 U.S. adults finds that 41 percent won’t use a sick day even if they really are ill!

Conversely, a third of Americans don’t feel bad calling out (32%) or are likely to call out the moment they feel like they’re getting sick (36%). That’s especially the case for young adults. Gen-Z and millennials were the generations most likely to call out sick at work (36% and 45%, respectively), while older generations like Gen-X and baby boomers were more willing to work through their illness (30% and 47%).

Nearly as many respondents (35%) tend to complain a lot when they get sick, while 45 percent claim not to complain a lot.

Commissioned by Zicam brand and conducted by OnePoll, the study found 40 percent of people were reactive about their health pre-pandemic, only taking action when they were not feeling well, while 32 percent were proactive — treating symptoms as they popped up, rather than waiting to get sick.

Two years later, the tables have turned: 43 percent now claim to be more proactive about their health and 34 percent are reactive.

More than three in five (64%) are more likely to cancel plans now than before the pandemic if they feel themselves getting sick. Nearly as many (60%) still feel bad about canceling their personal plans.

‘Younger generations aren’t waiting around to get sick’

From the moment they show a single symptom, 74 percent claim they’ll do everything in their power to prevent themselves from getting sick.

“Since the onset of the pandemic, we’ve seen a pretty significant shift when it comes to consumers taking a more proactive approach to their overall health and wellbeing,” says Bruce Tetreault, Senior Director of Marketing at Zicam, in a statement. “Younger generations aren’t waiting around to get sick, then struggle to get through it. They rather lay low early and treat their symptoms instead of waiting until it’s too late.”

Results also revealed the most embarrassing illness symptoms to experience in public: runny noses (22%), excessive coughing (20%), excess mucus (11%), and an upset stomach (10%).

Since the beginning of the pandemic, 71 percent have found themselves self-conscious when they cough or sneeze in public — 61 percent will do almost anything to avoid coughing or sneezing in public.

Over half (52%) turn to products that contain Zinc to help them shorten their cold.

“Since the pandemic began, no one wants to be ‘that person’ coughing in a crowded room,” Tetreault continues. “It comes down to treating a cough, or a sneeze, or a runny nose.”

Survey methodology:

This random double-opt-in survey of 2,000 naturally representative Americans was commissioned by Zicam between October 5 and October 11, 2022. It was conducted by market research company OnePoll, whose team members are members of the Market Research Society and have corporate membership to the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) and the European Society for Opinion and Marketing Research (ESOMAR).

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About the Author

Chris Melore

Chris Melore has been a writer, researcher, editor, and producer in the New York-area since 2006. He won a local Emmy award for his work in sports television in 2011.

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