Aches and Pains Cut Productivity

June 5, 2002 ( - The top five common health conditions cost employers more than $180 billion annually in lost productivity, according to a study by AdvancePCS, a pharmacy benefit management company.

According to the research, more than 70% of men and 80% of women reported at least one episodic or chronic-episodic health condition during the two-week period prior to being interviewed by AdvancePCS. The most common conditions are:

  • headache or pain,
  • colds or flu, 
  • fatigue or depression, 
  • digestive problems, and 
  • arthritis

Losing Time

According to the study, a majority of the lost productive-time from these health conditions is invisible to employers, because most workers take their pain to work. More than 38% of women and 28% of men reported being unwell at work over the period. Only 7.2% of women and 5.3% of men actually missed a day of work in the previous two weeks for a health reason.

On average, American worker loses 115 productive work hours every year due to a health condition. Furthermore, for any one condition, 70% to 80% of the lost time is concentrated in 20% to 35% of employees.

The annual cost to employers for all health conditions, chronic in addition to episodic and chronic-episodic, is $250 billion or more. According to the research, the total cost to employers in lost productive-time for all conditions is in the range of $2000 per worker per year.


The analysis is based on data collected over a 10-month period and more than 25,000 interviews as part of the American Productivity Audit (APA), an ongoing daily national survey of US workers by AdvancePCS.

Researchers conducted interviews with randomly selected workers, collecting information on the respondents’ health, missed days of work and reduced on-the-job performance during the previous two weeks. Cost impact was estimated by multiplying lost-productive-time by the worker’s hourly labor cost.