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.