Study: 1 in 3 Workers in Pain
Pain Among Employees Common and Affects Productivity
July 15, 2005 -- Nearly one in three workers suffers from pain that affects
not only their health but their productivity as well, according to a new
Researchers surveyed employees of a major Fortune 500 company and found
nearly 30% were in pain beyond the normal everyday aches and pains, like
toothaches or muscle sprains.
Lost productivity due to performing at less than 100% on the job
(presenteeism) as well as missing work days (absenteeism) amounted to about
four days a month for those in pain compared with less than half a day for
Researchers say the findings confirm that pain in the workplace is a major
cause of lost productivity that merits greater attention by employers.
Four common pain conditions (headaches, arthritis, back pain, and other
musculoskeletal problems) cause productivity losses among 13% of the U.S.
workforce at a cost of more than $62 billion per year, they write.
Measuring Employee Pain
In this study, researchers looked at the burden of pain among more than
1,000 employees of a Fortune 500 company based in the Northeast to determine
the extent of the problem and identify possible targets for interventions.
Researchers measured pain among employees by asking them how much bodily
pain they had experienced in the last four weeks and whether they were
experiencing pain other than common, everyday aches and pains on the day of the
The results showed that nearly 30% of the employees were in pain. Pain among
employees was linked to a 45% drop in overall physical health and a 23% drop in
Pain was also linked to substantial declines in productivity. Lost
productivity caused by healthy employees missing a day or not performing at
100% at work amounted to just more than a third of a day over the previous four
weeks. But for those who were in pain, lost productivity from presenteeism and
absenteeism totaled about four days.
Employees reporting the highest level of pain were also more likely to
report one or more accidents at work in the last year compared with healthy
Room for Improvement
Although employees said they used a variety of means to manage their pain --
including medication, visiting a doctor, and exercise -- many rated their
current pain treatment approach as far short of optimal, leaving much room for
Researchers say the greatest room for improvement in pain management was
found among those with musculoskeletal pain conditions, such as arthritis.
The results of the study appear in the July issue of the Journal of
Occupational and Environmental Medicine.