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The Relationship Between Health Risks and Work Productivity

Boles, Myde PhD; Pelletier, Barbara MS; Lynch, Wendy PhD

Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine: July 2004 - Volume 46 - Issue 7 - p 737-745
doi: 10.1097/01.jom.0000131830.45744.97

We sought to provide evidence for the relationship between health risks and self-reported productivity, including health-related absence and impaired performance on the job. A cross-sectional analysis was implemented consisting of 2264 employees of a large national employer located in the Northeast. Participants responded to a health risk assessment and work productivity scale. Mean productivity loss was compared for individuals with different levels of risk factors using analysis of variance. Multivariate analyses, including logistic and linear regression, were used to determine the significance of health risks on productivity loss. Participants with more risk factors reported greater productivity loss (P < 0.001). The odds of any productivity loss were most significant for individuals with diabetes (absenteeism) and stress (presenteeism). In conclusion, higher risks are strongly associated with greater productivity loss, and different risks are associated with absenteeism than with presenteeism.

From the Center for Public Health Studies, School of Community Health, Portland State University, Portland, Oregon (Dr Boles); Aetna Inc., Hartford, Connecticut (Ms Pelletier); and Lynch Consulting, Ltd (Dr Lynch).

Aetna Inc. provided financial support for the design, development, coordination, delivery, management, and data analysis for this project and all program components and services rendered. WebMD HealthCare Services Group provided financial support for time spent by Dr Boles in initial preparation of manuscripts for publication through a consultant contract.

Dr Boles was employed at WellMed, Inc. (now WebMD HealthCare Services Group) at the initiation of this project: WebMD HealthCare Services Group, 520 NW Davis, Suite 300, Portland, OR 97209.

Address correspondence to: Myde Boles, PhD, Center for Public Health Studies, P.O. Box 751, School of Community Health, Portland State University, Portland, OR 97207-0751; E-mail:

Copyright © 2004 by the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine