Study Examines Causes, Costs, of Lost Worker Productivity

Nov. 8, 2002
A new survey by the Institute for Health & Productivity Management (IHPM) shows that musculoskeletal and mental health conditions have the greatest reported negative impact on worker productivity, yet many employers don't sponsor disease management programs to lower costs.

The survey asked about absence from work, as well as the health and disease issues that diminish performance while at work (presenteeism) both major reasons for lost productivity.

The IHPM survey found that musculoskeletal conditions, including arthritis, low back pain and repetitive motion strain, were the leading cause of absenteeism. Mental health conditions largely depression and pregnancy were the second and third leading causes of absences from work.

Musculoskeletal problems were second to mental health conditions in causing productivity loss due to presenteeism followed by respiratory and gastrointestinal problems.

Although musculoskeletal and mental health conditions have the largest reported negative impact on productivity, disease management programs for these conditions were not common among the employers surveyed.

"If more employers established disease management programs to deal with these health issues, they would be able to reduce their overall health-related costs, while also increasing productivity," said Sean Sullivan, president and CEO of IHPM.

IHPM surveyed 34 employers with a combined total of 1.2 million employees. The average age of these workers was 43 and 61 percent were men.

The IHPM is a non-profit research and development organization dedicated to establishing the value of employee heath as a business asset and investment in corporate success.

About the Author

Sandy Smith

Sandy Smith is the former content director of EHS Today, and is currently the EHSQ content & community lead at Intelex Technologies Inc. She has written about occupational safety and health and environmental issues since 1990.

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