The Real Cost of Back Pain in and out of the Workplace
Did you know… That back pain is one of the leading causes of disability around the world? Low back pain, specifically, affects over half a billion people worldwide. It affects people from all walks of life, regardless of social status, gender, or country.
One would think industrialization would reduce causes of back pain because we’ve moved away from mostly physical work—but no. While back pain is a risk factor in jobs that require mostly physical work, it is likewise a risk factor in jobs that require mostly computer work (and sitting all day).
In this blog post, we’ll take a closer look at the cost of back pain to employees, employers, and to the economy.
Back Pain: How Much is it Costing You?
You might think the person suffering from back pain is the only one who feels the impact of the condition, but that is far from the truth. Employers, and even the economy, share in the brunt caused by this condition.
The Cost to Patients
Back pain decreases a person’s quality of life. It significantly limits a person’s ability to function and perform the roles he’s meant to perform in the family and in the workplace. Apart from this, take a look at the following:
- Back pain causes loss of income due to increased absences at work
- It increases expenses for back pain treatment
- It requires additional expenses for childcare and for services one is unable to perform due to the pain
People suffering from back pain are also found to have higher likelihood to experience depression and other illnesses due to related causes such as lack of sleep, leading to a weakened immune system and greater susceptibility to getting sick.
The Cost to Employers
Employers appear to be one of the most greatly affected when employees suffer back pain. Here are some data:
- Employers spend over $34K on healthcare for every 100 employees due to back pain
- They spend 60% more on healthcare for employees with back pain compared to those without
- It is also found that due to high cost of healthcare, some employers decide to allocate to healthcare budget what would otherwise be allocated to other things such as salary increase among the employees
Apart from healthcare costs, employers also suffer from employees’ loss of productivity, either due to absence or to being present but not being able to give their 100% to the tasks they need to do due to the pain they suffer from (called presenteeism). And when employees choose to permanently leave due to this disability, employers have to spend on hiring and training new employees.
The Cost to the Economy
Back pain appears to be one of the main contributing conditions to the overall increase in healthcare cost, including an increase in health insurance costs. It was found out that the active disability claim on back pain reaches up to $35K per claim every year, one that is worsened by the fact that cases of back pain have been increasing during the past year, and not only among the older population but even among the younger ones.
But What Can We Do?
The first thing to do is to identify the cause, and then to address it.
Today, it appears among the leading causes of back pain is the sedentary lifestyle that has become all too common in our modern society. Most of our activities involve sitting for long periods of time—when we work in front of our computer at the office or when we stay on our couches at home to watch TV, play videogames, or simply spend time with our family.
The first step to addressing back pain appears to be a lifestyle change—to break our habits of sitting and staying in one position for too long. Here are some quick practices you can start doing to break from your sedentary lifestyle:
- Find time for exercise, whether at home or in the gym.
- Instead of riding a car, walk as much as you can.
- Practice standing while working on the computer—an adjustable desk can make this easy.
- Design your space so that it encourages movement.
Back pain is a widespread concern, but it’s not all hopeless. As an individual, you can start living a healthier lifestyle to avoid back pain or address it. As an employer, you can start making your workplace more ergonomic to help your employees more move and help yourself avoid the high healthcare cost caused by this condition. The key is to start doing something as soon as you can.
SOURCES: Corporate Wellness Magazine & National Library of Medicine
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