Americans Fake Illness To Get Time Off Work

Older Generations Show More of Work Ethic Than Younger Cohort

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And you thought your boss was stuck in bed with a fever. Roughly 42 percent of wealthy households admit to having faked that cough at least once when they've called in sick, 11 percentage points higher than the national norm, according to a survey conducted for American Demographics by Audits & Surveys Worldwide. Sixty-two percent of Americans with incomes of $50,000 or more say they've taken a sick day in the past year, compared to the national average of 54 percent. (Twenty-eight percent of all Americans say they haven't missed a day at the office.)

Not surprisingly, most 18-to-24-year-olds have no problem blowing off work: 73 percent took a sick day in the past year, and fully 43 percent say they've taken a day when they weren't ill. Adults with some college or a college degree are slightly more likely to call in sick than the average American (both about 57 percent) and they're also more apt to feign sore throats: Roughly 41 percent of college grads in the survey say they've lied about being sick.

They may be retired now, but seniors 65 and over believed in a strong work ethic while in the labor force - 85 percent say they've never played hooky on a sick day.

To be fair, high-income earners aren't abusing their sick days that often. Overall, 73 percent of Americans who call in sick do so less than five days a year, but among those making $50,000 or more, that figure reaches 80 percent. Southerners who call in sick do so liberally: Nearly one-third say they take five or more days, higher than those in any other region.

Why do people lie about being sick? Nearly 41 percent say it's just because they need a day off, damnit. Mental-health days are a popular excuse for those high-strung Northeasterners (48 percent), as well as middle-income households (56 percent).

Women are twice as likely as men (16 percent vs. 8 percent) to miss work to care for a sick family member. And 16 percent of respondents aged 50 to 64 - the age group most likely to have elderly parents - say they've called in sick to care for a relative.

When they really are sick, most Americans have the right medicine on hand. More than 80 percent say they have aspirin in the house, and 73 percent stock cold or sinus medicine as well. Northeasterners are slightly more likely than average to take a sick day now and then (59 percent), but they are the least prepared of any region to battle sniffles and sneezes - 67 percent say they have cold medicine, 6 percentage points below average. They know how to deal with constipation, though: 36 percent of Northeast households keep laxatives in their medicine cabinets, compared to 29 percent of all U.S. households. Baby boomers are more likely to keep antacids handy (65 percent) than are Gen Xers (51 percent). And dental floss shows up in eight out of ten homes in America. No word, however, on how many people use the stuff diligently every day.

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