Original article

Scand J Work Environ Health 2016;42(5):413-422    pdf full text

doi:10.5271/sjweh.3583

The relationship between chronic conditions and absenteeism and associated costs in Canada

by Zhang W, McLeod C, Koehoorn M

Objectives This study aimed to measure and compare the relationship between chronic diseases and the number of absent workdays due to health problems and the associated costs among working Canadians.

Methods The study sample included respondents to the 2010 Canadian Community Health Survey between aged 15–75 years who reported employment in the past three months. Respondents reported their number of absent workdays due to health problems and chronic conditions. A negative binomial regression was used to estimate the incremental absent workdays associated with having a particular chronic condition (of 16 conditions), conditional on other chronic conditions and confounders. For each condition, we calculated the incremental number of absent workdays, the incremental productivity loss attributed to absenteeism per employee, and the overall productivity loss in the population.

Results The final sample consisted of 28 678 respondents representing 15 468 788 employed Canadians. The average number of absent workdays due to health problems was 1.35 days over a 3-month period. The three conditions with the greatest association with absent workdays were mood disorders, heart disease, and bowel disorders. They were associated with 1.17, 0.81, and 0.80 additional absent workdays, respectively, compared to workers without this condition, holding other conditions and confounders at their means. At the national working population level, back problems (CAD$621 million), mood disorders (CAD$299 million) and migraine (CAD$245 million) accounted for the largest incremental productivity loss.

Conclusions Chronic conditions, especially mood disorders and back problems, are associated with substantial work productivity loss. The study findings can help policy-makers and employers prioritize their programs and resources aimed at reducing absenteeism among the working population with chronic conditions.

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