Allergies have impact on workplace

May 1, 2003

Pharmaceutical Representative

Allergic rhinitis costs employers millions of dollars annually.

Results of a study sponsored by New York-based Pfizer Inc., and presented at the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology annual meeting, show that allergic rhinitis costs employers millions of dollars annually. Compared with other common, chronic health conditions studied, allergic rhinitis caused the highest amount of employee absenteeism, presenteeism (lost productivity at work due to illness) and total productivity loss for employers (with costs of $1,537,364, $3,396,291 and $4,933,655 respectively), costing an average of $597 per employee per year, significantly more than stress ($518), depression ($273) or anxiety ($250).

Caregiving by employees for children with allergies also impacted employers' bottom lines, resulting in total productivity losses of $701,502 ($351,722 due to absenteeism, $349,730 due to presenteeism).

"These data confirm the severe impact illnesses, such as allergies, can have on productivity in the workplace," said Paul Ratner, lead investigator and a practicing allergist-immunologist in San Antonio, TX. "It's important that patients have access to a variety of affordable allergy treatment options so that they can find the one that provides optimal relief and lets them get back to their daily activities."

Sick days, lost productivity

The study involved 8,267 employees at more than 40 U.S. companies who took the Wellness Inventory, a questionnaire that assessed the impact on workplace productivity of 11 health conditions, including allergic rhinitis, pediatric allergy, stress, migraine, depression, arthritis and anxiety; and four caregiver conditions, including Alzheimer's disease and pediatric respiratory tract infection. Costs were calculated using a formula developed by the Ann Arbor, MI-based Medstat Group Inc.

According to the data, allergic rhinitis was the most prevalent health condition in the workplace, with more than half (55%) of employees reporting symptoms. Specifically, employees who reported allergy symptoms suffered an average of 52.5 days per year but only took 3.56 sick days due to allergic rhinitis. In addition, those employees lost 2.3 hours of productivity per day when experiencing symptoms at work. PR

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