Impact of back pain on absenteeism, productivity loss, and direct healthcare costs using the medical expenditure panel survey (MEPS)
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Back pain is one of the most common and challenging problems in primary care. The economic burden due to back pain is of concern to employers, insurance agencies, policy decision makers and treatment decision makers. The objective of this study was to assess the impact of back pain on absenteeism, productivity loss, and direct healthcare costs using the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS). The predictors of absenteeism in individuals who experienced back pain were identified using Zero-inflated negative binomial regression. In 2000, the one-year period prevalence of back pain in individuals between 18 and 65 years of age was 11.1 percent. About 16.3 percent of the individuals who were employed and who reported back pain experienced back pain due to work-related injuries. Ethnicity and union contract were identified as significant predictors of likelihood of absenteeism in individuals who experienced back pain. The significant predictors of absenteeism rate were perceived overall health status due to back pain, and ethnicity. The mean number of absenteeism days due to back pain was estimated to be six days. In 2000, a total of nine million absenteeism days were due to back pain. The total productivity loss due to back pain-related absenteeism was estimated to be $3.6 billion and the total direct healthcare costs was estimated to be $14 billion. The average productivity loss due to back pain related absenteeism was estimated to be $305 per person and the annual per-capita direct healthcare cost due to back pain was $730. Estimating the impact of back pain in a nationally representative sample will provide valuable information to the employers, healthcare insurers, and Workers ’ Compensation providers in terms of allocating fund for individuals with back pain to return to work as soon as possible.