Health-Related Absenteeism Cost Employers $48B

October 17, 2007 ( - The most common chronic conditions that led to 10 or more days of employee absences in 2003 from work were depression, sadness or mental illness, followed by any type of cancer and respiratory disorders, according to a recent study by the American Hospital Association (AHA).

The study also looked at the cost to employers of lost productivity for worker absences due to sickness, finding that employers paid $48 billion for time not worked because of employee illness in 2003. Reduced productivity because of sickness cost employers $27 billion.

Nearly 30% of workers reported health problems in 2003, with 44% saying they took one to five sick days because of these problems and 20% saying they took six or more sick days.

The study showed that employees on average missed more than 10 days for the following chronic conditions:

  • Depression/Sadness/Mental Illness, 25.6 days;
  • Cancer, 16.9 days;
  • Respiratory Disorders, 14.7 days;
  • Asthma, 12 days;
  • Migraine/Headache, 10.7 days;
  • Allergy, 8.2 days
  • Heart Disease, 6.8 days;
  • Arthritis, 5.9 days; and
  • Diabetes, 2 days.

On a national level, employers saw a $23.1-billion impact for asthma-related absences, $2.75 billion for diabetes-related absences and $4.6 billion for hypertension-related absences.

California employers saw the greatest annual costs stemming from absenteeism caused by asthma ($2.9 billion) and diabetes ($312 million). Texas took the second spot for both asthma ($1.52 billion) and diabetes ($232 million).

The study also showed the costs to employers of workers with a chronic condition who come to work, but lag behind in productivity because of their condition. Arthritis, which ranks as the condition with the heaviest presenteeism, costs ($252 per employee), followed by hypertension ($247 per employee) and depression/sadness/mental illness ($246 per employee).

Respiratory disorders were the least costly ($33 per employee), followed by heart disease ($71 per employee).

For the full AHA report go here .