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Pain Causes Lost Productivity at Work

In Brief

Lost hours of productivity at work caused by pain, such as headache and back pain, cost employers $80 billion a year, according to research presented at the 10th World Congress on Pain. This estimate is based on data collected by the American Productivity Audit, an ongoing national survey that aims to determine how many hours of productivity are lost — due to both missed days of work and reduced productivity when present at work — because of health conditions.

Among respondents who reported lost productivity due to a health condition, 6.4 percent reported headache as the cause, for an average of 3.6 lost hours per week, and 3.4 percent reported back pain as the cause, for an average of 5.8 lost hours per week.

Another study, presented at this year's International Society for Pharmacoeconomics and Outcomes Research Annual Meeting and based on the American Productivity Audit data, showed that workers are much more likely to come to work while not feeling well than to miss a day of work because of an episodic or chronic episodic health condition, such as a cold or headache.

Of the respondents, 5.3 percent of men and 7.2 percent of women reported missing at least one day of work because of an episodic or chronic episodic health condition within the past two weeks, but 27.9 percent of men and 38 percent of women reported attending work with one over the same period. In fact, the researchers estimate that the average woman has 15.5 unproductive work hours a year just because of headache pain, and the average man 11.4. This costs employers $29.8 billion a year just for headache pain.

According to AdvancePCS, the private health improvement company sponsoring the American Productivity Audit, this is the only study to estimate, on a national level, the amount of lost productivity caused by reduced productivity at work.

© 2003 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.