The Health and Productivity Impact of Back Pain

For every 1,000 U.S. employees, nearly half a million dollars in excess health care treatments and lost time is attributable to back pain.

San Francisco California, UNITED STATES

San Fancisco, CA, July 25, 2017 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- For every 1,000 U.S. employees, nearly half a million dollars in excess health care treatments and lost work time is attributable to back pain. These findings by the non-profit Integrated Benefits Institute (IBI) are from the first in a series of reports on the health and productivity impact of chronic conditions.

Using nationally representative data from the Agency for Health Research and Quality’s (AHRQ’s) Medical Expenditure Panel Study, and from IBI’s database of disability claims from the books of business of 14 of the largest U.S. disability insurance carriers and third-party administrators, the analysis finds that in a given year, about 11% of the U.S. workforce received medical treatment for back pain. On average, costs for these employees’ healthcare and pharmacy treatments were about $2,200 higher than costs for employees without back pain.

Nonetheless, excess healthcare costs for employees with back pain accounted for only about 60% of the total costs associated with back pain. The remainder of the costs were for sick day absences and disability leaves. The report estimates that for every 1,000 employees, 4.3 had a short-term disability insurance claim for back pain, and 2.7 employees were on long-term disability leave for back pain. What is more, each year employees with back pain had about 2.5 more sick day absences on average than employees without back pain. In total, back pain costs about $444,000 annually for every 1,000 employees—$190,000 of which are payments for back pain-related absences.

Large as these costs are, they likely undercount the full economic burden in the labor force. Early exits from the labor force, excess turnover costs, and presenteeism (underperformance on the job due to illness) were not included in the analysis.

The report also found substantial variation in back pain-related costs across industries. Overall costs ranged from about $207,000 per 1,000 employees in leisure and hospitality to about $702,000 per 1,000 employees in transportation and utilities.

Most back pain can be treated non-surgically with medications and physical therapy, and episodes of pain can be prevented with attention to proper techniques for sitting, working and exercising. Employers can craft strategies to mitigate the health and productivity impact of back pain, such as offering occupational therapy, ergonomic interventions, or vocational rehabilitation. With a such large share of U.S. workers impacted, helping employees prevent, treat, and manage this back pain and other chronic illnesses remains an important strategy for reducing employers’ health care and disability costs.

Read the full report here.

About The Integrated Benefits Institute:

As the leading research organization in health and productivity, the Institute provides the data, research and tools professionals need to make sound decisions in how they invest in the health of their workforces. Since its inception in 1995, IBI has been an independent nonprofit serving more than 1,200 members—the companies that provide health and productivity services and the companies that implement health-related programs to benefit their employees and their business. For more information, visit Follow IBI on Twitter and connect on LinkedIn.


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