Pain Has Significant Negative Effects on Health and Workplace Productivity

Pain is one of the leading causes of both worker absenteeism, in which an employee must take time away from work, and worker “presenteeism,” in which an employee’s overall effectiveness at work is limited as a result from physical and/or mental health problems. The effect pain can have on both employees and employers continues to increase significantly; by some estimates, common pain conditions now account for more than $62 billion per year in lost productivity.

In this study, 1,039 employees of a Fortune 100 company completed an electronic survey designed to assess the effect of pain on employee health and productivity. Among the factors the survey examined were physical functioning, vitality, mental health, general health, and the extent of bodily pain. The survey also tracked incidences of time spent away from work and work limitations resulting from health problems.

Results:   Approximately 29 percent of respondents reported ongoing problems with pain. Three musculoskeletal conditions (neck pain, low back pain and arthritis) were responsible for 50.1 percent of all pain complaints. Compared to those not in pain, employees with pain scored an average of 45 percent lower on an overall physical health rating, and 23 percent lower on a mental health score. Workers with pain were also five more times likely to report health-related limitations in job performance.

The researchers concluded that “the prevalence of pain and its impact on those with the condition combine to make it an area of much opportunity for improving workforce health and productivity.” They added that a systematic approach to targeting and reducing pain would offer “a significant opportunity to create a new ‘win-win’ – nurturing a better quality of life for many employees while at the same time promoting a more productive workforce.”

FROM:   J Occupational and Environmental Medicine 2005 (Jul);   47 (7):   658–670