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Journal of Occupational & Environmental Medicine:
doi: 10.1097/01.jom.0000166864.58664.29
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The Assessment of Chronic Health Conditions on Work Performance, Absence, and Total Economic Impact for Employers

Collins, James J. PhD; Baase, Catherine M. MD; Sharda, Claire E. RN, MBA; Ozminkowski, Ronald J. PhD; Nicholson, Sean PhD; Billotti, Gary M. MS; Turpin, Robin S. PhD; Olson, Michael PhD; Berger, Marc L. MD

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Abstract

Objective: The objective of this study was to determine the prevalence and estimate total costs for chronic health conditions in the U.S. workforce for the Dow Chemical Company (Dow).

Methods: Using the Stanford Presenteeism Scale, information was collected from workers at five locations on work impairment and absenteeism based on self-reported “primary” chronic health conditions. Survey data were merged with employee demographics, medical and pharmaceutical claims, smoking status, biometric health risk factors, payroll records, and job type.

Results: Almost 65% of respondents reported having one or more of the surveyed chronic conditions. The most common were allergies, arthritis/joint pain or stiffness, and back or neck disorders. The associated absenteeism by chronic condition ranged from 0.9 to 5.9 hours in a 4-week period, and on-the-job work impairment ranged from a 17.8% to 36.4% decrement in ability to function at work. The presence of a chronic condition was the most important determinant of the reported levels of work impairment and absence after adjusting for other factors (P < 0.000). The total cost of chronic conditions was estimated to be 10.7% of the total labor costs for Dow in the United States; 6.8% was attributable to work impairment alone.

Conclusion: For all chronic conditions studied, the cost associated with performance based work loss or “presenteeism” greatly exceeded the combined costs of absenteeism and medical treatment combined.

©2005The American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine

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