April 14, 2009

Poor worker health hurts profits

Poor health among workers is far costlier to U.S. employers than they realize, affecting their productivity and bottom line, researchers say.

The researchers of the multiyear study of 10 organizations employing more than 150,000 workers analyzed more than 1.1 million medical and pharmacy claims.

The study, published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, finds 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.

However, when health-related productivity costs are measured along with medical and pharmacy costs, the top five chronic health conditions driving overall health costs shift significantly, to depression, obesity, arthritis, back/neck pain and anxiety.

On average, every $1 of medical and pharmacy costs is matched to $2.3 of health-related productivity costs -- and that figure is much greater for some conditions.

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.

The study was coordinated by the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, the Integrated Benefits Institute and Alere LLC, formerly Matria Healthcare, Inc.

Executives/managers seem to suffer high presenteeism -- employees with health conditions are present at their jobs but are unable to perform at full capacity.