A chronic disease may be defined as, "an ongoing and incurable illness or condition that includes heart disease, asthma, cancer, and diabetes." Experts suggest that there are three lifestyle factors that are the major contributors to chronic diseases at workplace. In this chapter, we will discuss these three factors in detail.
Obesity is one of the major causes for a host of chronic diseases like heart diseases, diabetes, injuries, etc. Apart from the medical expenses, it also results in reduced productivity due to frequent visits to a physician’s office.
A survey done by Cigna in 2013 revealed that the most alarming situation in organizations is the exponential increase of obesity during 1993-2012. It also indicated that there is a whopping 3300% rise in the short-term disability due to obesity.
Another publisher “The American Journal of Health Promotion” found that an employer of America pays an average $8067 per employee every year towards obesity-related disabilities, as against a mere 50% cost in case of a normal weight employee.
The situation is going to worsen as the number of the obese employees are on the rise, and surveys suggest the percentage of obese people has increased from 22.9% during 1988-1994 to 34.9% in 2011-2012.
In spite of the recent fall in the numbers of smokers, smoking still affects the economy of organizations, both in terms of cost and the lost work days. A study by the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (JOEM) reveals that a smoker who consumes more than a pack of cigarettes daily is likely to affect production adversely by more than 75%, in comparison to a non-smoker.
Globally, employers are paying nearly $193 billion every year towards the medical costs and lost productions, which brings it down to an average of $5816 per annum per smoker.
Estimates suggest that various medical related compensation costs towards the smoking employees is at $2189, as opposed to $176 for non-smokers. It is because the healthcare package cost for a smoker attracts more premium than the non-smokers. Apart from the above, the probability of a work place accident is almost twice in case of a smoking employee. Many workplace accidental fires have occurred due to such smoking-related incidents.
Stress is probably the number one factor that affects employers the most in today’s world. As reported by the American Institute of Stress, a staggering $300 billion annually is the toll that the employers have to bear for various reasons such as lost productivity, absenteeism, accidents, low employee turnover and medical costs etc. arising out of excess stress among employees.
The amount of studies that have been done on this topic far surpass any other health-related study. A study by the JOEM suggests that stress alone costs more than all other lifestyle diseases put together. It also found that the healthcare cost of a stressed employee is 46%, while that of a depressed employee is almost 70% more than an employee who has not been reported under any stress in the workplace. This qualifies Workplace Stress as a chronic disease that accounts for almost 75% of the health spending, and is the worst culprit for health related issues being on the rise.
Chronic diseases wreck the economy in two ways. First, there is the huge expenditure that organizations have to do on the health of their working resources. Second, because of the absenteeism of the employees due to illness, there is a severe drop in the productivity of an organization, which results in missing deadlines and losing on crucial strategic advantages. The numbers themselves are staggering −
Almost 14 million workdays are lost in a year due to diabetes alone, as each diabetic loses nearly 8 days per year.
More than $160 billion of productivity lost during the year 2009 in the form of absentees and deaths due to cardiovascular diseases in America.
A survey during 2001 indicated the per capita expenditure for Asthma patients’ accounts for nearly 2.5 times the expenditure incurred over non-asthma patients.
A meager 10% drop in the high blood pressure condition would save America by nearly $450 million each year in the form of lost work days.