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The Role of Health Risk Factors and Disease on Worker Productivity

Burton, Wayne N. MD; Conti, Daniel J. PhD; Chen, Chin-Yu PhD; Schultz, Alyssa B. MS; Edington, Dee W. PhD

Journal of Occupational & Environmental Medicine: October 1999 - Volume 41 - Issue 10 - p 863-877
Original Articles

The costs attributed to employee health problems are usually measured by employers in terms of direct health care costs, such as medical plan claims. Although it has been understood that employee health problems also produce indirect costs for employers, their measurement has been far less frequent. At best, studies have recorded one component of indirect health costs: the time lost to employee absenteeism and disability. The study presented here includes a measure of the actual decrease in the productivity of employees while they are on the job, in addition to measures of absenteeism and disability. These three measurements were combined to produce a Worker Productivity Index (WPI). The WPIs of 564 telephone customer-service agents were correlated with the employees' number and type of health risks, as measured by a Health Risk Appraisal. Additionally, the WPI was also examined across different disease states in the same population of employees. As the number of health risks increased, an employee's productivity decreased. The nature of the health risk may also differentially affect the pattern of the decrease. Finally, disease states were also associated with different patterns of productivity reduction.

From Bank One, Chicago, Ill. (Dr Burton, Dr Conti); the Departments of Medicine and Psychiatry, Northwestern University Medical School, Chicago, Ill. (Dr Burton); DePaul University, Chicago, Ill. (Dr Conti); and the Health Management Research Center, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI (Dr Chen, Ms Schultz, Dr Edington).

Address correspondence to: Wayne N. Burton, MD, Bank One, Suite IL1-0006, One Bank One Plaza, Chicago, IL 60670-0006.

© 1999 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.