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Most Employers Underestimate Full Costs of Employee Health on Productivity
Date:4/13/2009

ELK GROVE VILLAGE, Ill., April 13 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Poor health among workers is far costlier to U.S. employers than they realize, impacting their profitability and undercutting the nation's overall productivity, according to a major study published this week in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (JOEM).

The multi-year study of ten organizations employing more than 150,000 workers indicates that employers who focus only on medical and pharmacy costs in creating employee health strategies may misidentify the health conditions that most impact the productivity of their employees -- while underestimating the impact of other factors.

One such factor, "presenteeism," occurs when employees with health conditions are present at their jobs but are unable to perform at full capacity. The study closely examined the effects of presenteeism, concluding that impaired employee-performance typically creates a greater drain on a company's productivity than employee absence -- a finding which could come as a surprise to some employers.

The study also found that when considering medical and drug costs alone, the top five conditions driving costs are cancer (other than skin cancer), back/neck pain, coronary heart disease, chronic pain, and high cholesterol. But when health-related productivity costs are measured along with medical and pharmacy costs, the top five chronic health conditions driving these overall health costs shift significantly, to depression, obesity, arthritis, back/neck pain and anxiety.

The study suggests that many employers miss an opportunity to improve productivity and their bottom-line results by failing to recognize and prioritize these health conditions when they develop integrated employee- health strategies and related interventions.

The study, coordinated by the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACO
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SOURCE American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine; Alere(R); Integrated Benefits Institute; National Pharmaceutical Council
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