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Work Productivity Loss in Young Workers Is Substantial and Is Associated With Spinal Pain and Mental Ill-health Conditions

Beales, Darren PhD; Kyaw-Myint, SuMon PhD; Smith, Anne PhD; O'Sullivan, Peter PhD; Pransky, Glenn MD; Linton, Steven PhD; Job, Jenny PhD; Straker, Leon PhD

Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine: March 2017 - Volume 59 - Issue 3 - p 237–245
doi: 10.1097/JOM.0000000000000990
Original Articles

Objective: The aim of this study was to estimate the effect of spinal pain and mental ill-health conditions on work productivity in 22-year-old workers.

Methods: A cross-sectional design using data from the Raine Study cohort (n = 867) including self-reported work productivity and self-report of health practitioner diagnosed medical conditions.

Result: Mean (median, 25th-percentile, 75th-percentile) annualized cost of health-related absenteeism was $AUD1899 ($0, $0, $1738) per worker. Annualized cost of presenteeism was $AUD10,674 ($6573, $4003, $13,087) per worker. Spinal pain and mental ill-health conditions were associated with increased health-related absenteeism, but not presenteeism.

Conclusion: Work productivity loss in young workers is a substantial problem needing priority attention. Addressing spinal pain and mental ill-health may improve productivity of this important sector of the workforce.

School of Physiotherapy and Exercise Science, Curtin University, Perth, Western Australia, Australia (Drs Beales, Smith, O'Sullivan, Straker); Safe Work Australia, Canberra, Australia (Drs Kyaw-Myint, Job); Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety, Boston, Massachusetts (Dr Pransky); and Center for Health and Medical Psychology, School of Law, Psychology and Social Work, Örebro University, Örebro, Sweden (Dr Linton).

Address correspondence to: Dr Darren Beales, PhD, School of Physiotherapy and Exercise Science, Curtin University, GPO Box U1987, Perth, WA 6845, Australia (

Core funding for the Raine Study was provided by the University of Western Australia, Curtin University, the Raine Medical Research Foundation, the University of Western Australia Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences, the Telethon Kids Institute, the Women's and Infant's Research Foundation at King Edward Memorial Hospital and Edith Cowan University. The 22-year Raine Study follow-up was funded by National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia project grants (1027449, 1044840 and 1021855) and Safe Work Australia. Darren Beales and Leon Straker were supported by research fellowships from the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia (1036778 and 1019980, respectively).

Authors Beales, Kyaw-Myint, Smith, O'Sullivan, Pransky, Linton, Job, and Straker have no relationships/conditions/circumstances that present potential conflict of interest.

The JOEM editorial board and planners have no financial interest related to this research.

A report on this study has been published by the National Occupational Health and Safety Authority of Australia, Safe Work Australia, and is available at:

Copyright © 2017 by the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine