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Arthritis takes toll on workplace productivity

By Arthritis Research Canada   


A recent Arthritis Research Canada study has revealed systemic autoimmune rheumatic diseases (SARDS) place significant economic strain on the paid and unpaid workforce in the form of excess productivity costs.

The study specifically focused on three types of SARDS: systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), systemic sclerosis/scleroderma (SSc) and Sjogren’s syndrome (SjS) and found that those with SLE, SSc, and SjS were predicted to incur an additional $4,494, $3,582, and $4,357, respectively, in lost productivity costs each year, over-and-above a similar person without a SARD.

“Approximately two-to-five per-1,000 Canadians have a SARD, which can lead to systemic inflammation, organ damage, and an array of physical and neurocognitive manifestations that can reduce their ability to function, overall health, and ability to perform at work,” said Natalie McCormick, a research trainee at Arthritis Research Canada who conducted this research as part of her Ph.D. thesis. “This study makes several unique contributions in highlighting the societal burden of SARDs, relative to the general population.”


Many working-age participants were not in the paid workforce at all due to issues with their health and of those who were, most productivity costs were the result of working while sick and not from missing work due to illness.

“This means they did not miss any more work than people without one of these diagnoses, but they worked less efficiently,” McCormick said. “They complete their paid work tasks, but with less time or capacity for their unpaid work – like cooking, cleaning, and other daily tasks.”

This study is the first-known analysis of the excess productivity costs of systemic sclerosis/scleroderma, first population-level analysis of productivity costs in Sjogren’s syndrome, and one of few systemic lupus erythematosus estimates to include presenteeism – or working while sick – in paid work, and unpaid work loss.

Future studies should look at how job accommodations (like flexible hours), job training, or policy incentives may help reduce these costs for patients and society.

To read the study:

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