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Stewart WF, Ricci JA, Chee E, Morganstein D, Lipton R. Lost Productive Time and Cost Due to Common Pain Conditions in the US Workforce. JAMA. 2003;290(18):2443–2454. doi:10.1001/jama.290.18.2443
Author Affiliations: AdvancePCS Center for Work and Health, Hunt Valley, Md (Drs Stewart, Ricci, and Chee); Geisinger Health Systems, Danville, Pa (Dr Stewart); Statistical Group, Westat, Rockville, Md (Mr Morganstein); and Department of Neurology, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, NY (Dr Lipton).
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 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.
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