Pain Hurts Employees at Work and at Home
Presenteeism' Costs Employers More Than Disability, Absenteeism
WebMD News Archive
Nov. 11, 2003 (New York) -- Employers may end up paying more
for lost productivity caused by employees who work through the pain rather than
staying at home due to disability.
A new study shows that productive time lost due to common pain
conditions such as headaches, back pain, and arthritis costs U.S. employers
more than $61 billion dollars per year, and most of that lost time is caused by
impaired performance at work rather than work absence.
"Pain is common and treatable condition that results in a
significant but largely invisible cost to employers," says researcher
Walter Stewart, PhD, MPH, director of the Center for Health Research and Rural
Advocacy at Geisinger Health System in Danville, Penn.
Stewart presented the results of the study, which appears in
the Nov. 12 issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association, at
an American Medical Association briefing on pain management today in New York
The Cost of Pain at Work
Researchers say the purpose in doing this study was to make the
cost of common pain-related conditions such as headache, arthritis, back pain,
and other musculoskeletal pain real to employers.
"Employers will understand what 61 billion dollars means,
and they will understand that in any two-week period one in eight workers is
losing time from a pain condition," says Stewart. "On average, they're
losing about five hours per week."
In the past, researchers say that employers have closely
monitored costs associated with worker disability because it creates paperwork
and is easy to follow. In addition, most studies on the work-related impact of
pain have only looked at lost time due to worker absenteeism in the form of
lost or shortened workdays.
But this study shows that's not where the real problem is.
Researchers say disability and absenteeism are only the tip of the iceberg when
it comes to lost productive time, and "presenteeism" is actually the
largest cause of lost productivity at work.
'Presenteeism' Costs Employers Most
Presenteeism is defined as reduced performance while at work,
which is commonly caused by pain-related conditions, such as headache,
arthritis, and back pain.