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Productivity Losses Related to the Common Cold

Bramley, Thomas J. PhD; Lerner, Debra PhD; Sarnes, Matthew PharmD

Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine: September 2002 - Volume 44 - Issue 9 - p 822-829
ORIGINAL ARTICLES: CME
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Learning Objectives 
  • Compare the contributions of absenteeism and on-the-job loss of productivity to total work loss in employed persons who get a cold, taking comorbidity into account.
  • Describe how both personal factors and illness-related factors influence loss of productivity from colds.
  • Discuss the economic consequences of the common cold and the respective costs of absenteeism and on-the-job loss of productivity.

Compare the contributions of absenteeism and on-the-job loss of productivity to total work loss in employed persons who get a cold, taking comorbidity into account.Describe how both personal factors and illness-related factors influence loss of productivity from colds.Discuss the economic consequences of the common cold and the respective costs of absenteeism and on-the-job loss of productivity. Health-related productivity assessments typically focus on chronic conditions; however, acute conditions, particularly colds, have the potential to cause substantial health-related productivity losses because of their high prevalence in working-age groups. This article presents the findings of a study conducted to estimate productivity loss due to cold by using a telephone-administered survey that measured three sources of loss: absenteeism, on-the-job productivity, and caregiver absenteeism. Each cold experienced by a working adult caused an average of 8.7 lost work hours (2.8 absenteeism hours; 5.9 hours of on-the-job loss), and 1.2 work hours were lost because of attending to children under the age of 13 who were suffering from colds. We conclude that the economic cost of lost productivity due to the common cold approaches $25 billion, of which $16.6 billion is attributed to on-the-job productivity loss, $8 billion is attributed to absenteeism, and $230 million is attributed to caregiver absenteeism.

From Applied Health Outcomes (Dr Bramley, Dr Sarnes), and New England Medical Center (Dr Lerner).

Address correspondence to: Thomas J. Bramley, Two Urban Centre, 4890 W Kennedy Blvd, Suite 760, Tampa, FL 33609; tbramley@navigantconsulting.com

This study was supported by a grant from Viropharma, Inc. All authors serve as consultants to Viropharma, Inc.

Copyright © 2002 by the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine