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The Burden of Pain on Employee Health and Productivity at a Major Provider of Business Services

Allen, Harris PhD; Hubbard, David MD; Sullivan, Sean JD

Journal of Occupational & Environmental Medicine:
Fast Tract Article

Objective: The objective of this study was to examine the burden of pain on employee health and productivity at a Fortune 100 company headquartered in the northeastern United States to prioritize target areas for reducing this burden.

Methods: An electronic survey was conducted in late 2004, which produced a reasonably representative national sample of 1039 active employee respondents.

Results: A total of 28.6% of respondents met the study definition for pain. Pain was linked to: 1) drops of more than 45% and 23%, respectively, in Overall Physical and Mental Health; 2) a fivefold increase in health-induced limitations in work performance; and 3) nearly three and two thirds workdays lost to presenteeism and absenteeism over a 4-week period. Afflicted workers displayed considerable room for improvement in their capacity for pain control and management.

Conclusions: The prevalence of pain and its impact on those with the condition combine to make it an area of much opportunity for improving workforce health and productivity. Musculoskeletal diseases offer a promising initial target for corporate intervention.

Author Information

From The Harris Allen Group, Brookline, Massachusetts (Dr Allen); CorSolutions, Poway, California (Dr Hubbard); and the Institute for Health & Productivity Management, Scottsdale, Arizona (Mr. Sullivan).

Address correspondence to: Harris Allen, PhD, The Harris Allen Group, 41 Naples Road, Brookline, MA 02446; E-mail:

The authors gratefully acknowledge the sponsorship of the Institute for Health & Productivity Management (IHPM) and the financial support of a nonrestricted educational grant to IHPM by Purdue Pharma, Stamford, Connecticut.

©2005The American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine