Thanks to To Your Health Newsletter for the use of this article!
The average employee misses several days of work each year because of the common cold; two or three more for personal or family emergencies; and a few extra "just because." With the exception of those seven or eight days, plus scheduled
vacation time and holidays, the average employee spends his or her time engaged in blissful work productivity, right?
Well, not exactly. Just because you're at work doesn't necessarily mean you're
being productive. In fact, according to a study published in the Journal of the
American Medical Association, U.S. employers lose more than $60 billion a year
because workers aren't as productive as they could be. The culprit: pain.
Researchers tracked nearly 30,000 working adults over a two-week period to
determine lost productive time attributable to common pain conditions, including
arthritis, back pain, headaches, and other musculoskeletal discomfort. In terms
of hours per worker per week, workers who experienced lost productive time from
a pain condition lost an average of 4.6 hours. Some of the statistics relative
to specific pain conditions were even more startling: Workers who suffered
headaches averaged 3.5 lost productive hours per week; those who suffered
arthritis or back pain averaged 5.2 lost hours per week. And for employers, this
lost time translated into approximately $61.2 billion annually in lost
Is pain affecting your job performance? If it is, the solution could be as close
as your local chiropractor. If your employer's health plan doesn't include
chiropractic coverage, visit www.chiroweb.com/locator to find a chiropractor
near you, and take the first step in getting rid of your pain and getting the
most out of your time at work.
JAMA 2003 (Nov 12); 290 (18): 2443-2454
Lost Productive Time and Cost Due to Common Pain Conditions in the US Workforce
Stewart WF, Ricci JA, Chee E, Morganstein D, Lipton R
AdvancePCS Center for Work and Health,
Hunt Valley, Md, USA.
CONTEXT: Common pain conditions appear to have an adverse effect on work, but no comprehensive estimates exist on the amount of productive time lost in the US workforce due to pain.
OBJECTIVE: To measure lost productive time (absence and reduced performance due to common pain conditions) during a 2-week period.
DESIGN AND SETTING: Cross-sectional study using survey data from the American Productivity Audit (a telephone survey that uses the Work and Health Interview) of working adults between August 1, 2001, and July 30, 2002.
PARTICIPANTS: Random sample of 28 902 working adults in the United States. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Lost productive time due to common pain conditions (arthritis, back, headache, and other musculoskeletal) expressed in hours per worker per week and calculated in US dollars.
RESULTS: Thirteen percent of the total workforce experienced a loss in productive time during a 2-week period due to a common pain condition. Headache was the most common (5.4%) pain condition resulting in lost productive time. It was followed by back pain (3.2%), arthritis pain (2.0%), and other musculoskeletal pain (2.0%). Workers who experienced lost productive time from a pain condition lost a mean (SE) of 4.6 (0.09) h/wk. Workers who had a headache had a mean (SE) loss in productive time of 3.5 (0.1) h/wk. Workers who reported arthritis or back pain had mean (SE) lost productive times of 5.2 (0.25) h/wk. Other common pain conditions resulted in a mean (SE) loss in productive time of 5.5 (0.22) h/wk. Lost productive time from common pain conditions among active workers costs an estimated 61.2 billion dollars per year. The majority (76.6%) of the lost productive time was explained by reduced performance while at work and not work absence.
CONCLUSIONS: Pain is an inordinately common and disabling condition in the US workforce. Most of the pain-related lost productive time occurs while employees are at work and is in the form of reduced performance.