Led by Harris Allen, Ph.D., of The Harris Allen Group, Brookline, Mass., the researchers performed an Internet survey of more than 1,000 employees of a major U.S. business services company. The study was designed to examine the frequency of pain in the workforce and its impact on employees' health and productivity.

Overall, 29 percent of workers reported ongoing problems with pain. Employees with pain scored more than 45 percent lower on an overall rating of physical health, compared to those without pain.

Pain was related to reductions in nearly every aspect of productivity measured - the more severe the pain, the greater its effect on productivity. Workers with pain were five times more likely to report health-related limitations in job performance. On a measure combining absenteeism and "presenteeism" - defined as health problems that are not severe enough to cause absence but still affect work performance - employees with pain lost an average of three and two-thirds work days per month.

Companies are increasingly aware of the financial impact of employee health - not just direct costs such as health insurance, but also indirect costs such as reduced productivity. Pain reduction has become a useful target for employers seeking ways to increase the health and productivity of their workforce.

The new results suggest that pain is common - reported by nearly one in three employees - and has a major impact on health and productivity. In designing programs to identify and help employees with pain, a focus on musculoskeletal conditions such as spinal pain and arthritis would offer the biggest "bang for the buck," the researchers write.

Interventions to target and reduce the burden of pain could provide companies with a chance to create a "win-win" situation: "nurturing a better quality of life for many employees while at the same time promoting a more productive workforce."

MEDICA.de; Source: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins