A study on chronic health conditions in the U.S. for the Dow Chemical Company (Dow). included one of the most comprehensive surveys to provide the overall picture of the costs of chronic health conditions in a diverse workforce. They found that among employees reporting at least one primary condition, the highest total cost per worker was for those reporting depression, anxiety, or emotional disorder as their “primary health condition” (absenteeism-related costs close to $15,000 annually per person with the condition).
Researchers also reported that absenteeism-related costs for back and neck pain were approximately $1,000, for heart or circulatory-related conditions $800, and diabetes $500 (annually per person influenced with the condition). Also, and more importantly, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and back and neck disorders each causing over $5000 costs per person influenced due to work impairment (i.e. presenteeism).
When weighing these values by the survey prevalence of each condition studied in their survey across all U.S. workers within the company, the average costs per employee were $2,278 for medical care, $661 from absenteeism, and $6,721 from work impairment. Projecting these values to the entire U.S. workforce of the company studied, the total cost estimate was 10.1% of total labor costs: 1.0% resulting from absenteeism, 2.3% from the use of medical care, and 6.8% from presenteeism.
Chronic health conditions are common, cause considerable costs, and have the potential to significantly impact the financial performance of companies in different fields. Traditionally, most management attention has focused on direct medical costs and absenteeism, although there is a far greater loss of productivity resulting from decrements in presenteeism, representing a substantial management opportunity as well as a compelling opportunity for different health-related solutions.
Breaking sedentary behavior and an increase in physical activity has been scientifically proven to decrease the occurrence and alleviating the symptoms of chronic health conditions, it is clear, that correct actions in the workplace can considerably decrease the occurrence of these conditions. This would subsequently reduce the costs related to lost productivity.