The losses are invisible because workers have chosen to come to work but are in too much pain to perform up to par.
The information comes from a new survey conducted by the Center for Work and Health at AdvancePCS in Hunt Valley, Md. The findings were presented recently at the 10th World Congress on Pain.
"People are at work but not performing as well as they would were they pain-free," Judith Ricci, a member of the research team, told Reuters Health.
To arrive at the estimate, the researchers conducted an ongoing telephone survey, from July 2001 to July 2002, including more than 29,000 employed and more than 1600 unemployed people ranging from 18 to 65 years old. They described pain complaints from headache, arthritis, backache and other musculoskeletal conditions as well as work absences and reduced work performance.
The researchers converted the subjects' lost productive time to dollars per worker per week, using self-reported annual salary.
The researchers conclude that pain is the most prevalent health condition in the American work force and the most costly in terms of productive work time.
Headache and back pain account for the majority of on-the-job pain complaints. Pain has the most impact on the job for men, those 35 to 40 years, those with less education, African Americans, and workers with high demand jobs over which they have little control.
To view the Reuters Health story, click here.
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n from common conditions such as headaches and back ache costs U.S. employers about $80 billion a year in lost productivity - even though most of the loss, or about $64 billion, is largely "invisible" to employers.