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Health Problems Cost $260 Billion in Lost Productivity, Study Finds

AUGUST 31, 2005 -- Sickness and health problems among working-age Americans and their families cost the United States $260 billion in lost productivity each year, according to a study released Wednesday by The Commonwealth Fund.

Researchers said that figure reflects economic losses from three different groups: 18 million adults ages 19 to 64 who have a chronic disease, disability, handicap, or other health problem and are not employed as a result; 69 million workers who reported missing days due to illness; and 55 million workers who said they were unable to concentrate at work because of their own illness or that of a family member.

Karen Davis, the lead author of the study and president of The Commonwealth Fund, said policymakers focused on health insurance "have neglected to consider the costs sustained by those who are too sick to work or function effectively."

Davis and her co-authors suggest steps policymakers and business leaders could take to stem economic losses due to illness, including adopting disease management and health promotion programs, providing health insurance coverage for all workers to increase the use of preventative care, and providing sick leave and paid time off to see a physician.

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