Heart Disease Strongest Risk Factor for Reduced Worker Productivity

Heart disease is the strongest risk factor for reduced work productivity, according to the first-ever report of worker\r\nhealth on a national level.

Heart disease is the strongest risk factor for reduced work productivity, according to a new report, "The Health Status of the United States Workforce", the first-ever evaluation of worker health on a national level.

Workers under age 55 who have heart disease are eight times more likely to experience reduced productivity than workers without heart disease, the report said.

Workers in this age group who have diabetes or arthritis are six and four times more likely, respectively, to report work limitations.

In addition, the report found that absenteeism due to health-related causes could result in at least $65 billion in lost wages annually.

"This report marks the first time we''ve been able to evaluate the health of the U.S. workforce, and the results are not as good as we''d hoped," said Dr. Edward A. Emmett, professor and director of Academic Programs, Occupational Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. "This information is truly a call to action. Clearly, there is a need for better diagnosis and treatment in order to extend productive life-years, maximize continued employment, and also decrease healthcare expenditures associated with medical complications."

According to the report, the presence in the workforce of undiagnosed and uncontrolled chronic conditions greatly increases the risk of serious illness.

"As many as 90,000 heart attacks and vascular events among workers each year in the United States may be due to elevated blood pressure and cholesterol, based on projections using the Framingham Heart Study equations," said Robin Hertz, Ph.D., epidemiologist and senior director of Outcomes Research at Pfizer Inc. "Smoking, another major risk factor, may be associated with as many as 74,000 cases of acute coronary events per year in the workforce," she added. Pfizer conducted the study and prepared the report.

Some of the other findings presented in the report include:

  • An estimated 37 million American workers have high cholesterol.
  • An estimated 18 million workers have high blood pressure.
  • Workers with arthritis are absent from work three times as often as workers without arthritis.
  • Workers with migraine headaches are absent from work three times as often as workers without migraines.
  • Eight percent of workers aged 18 to 39 screen positive for major depression, but only 12 percent of these workers are treated with antidepressant medications. Two percent of employed men and 5 percent of employed women have attempted suicide.

by Virginia Sutcliffe

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