Sunday, June 27, 2010

Migraines costly to productivity

Posted by Mark Brousseau

Employees suffering from Chronic Migraines (CM) experience increased lost productive time (LPT) in the workplace, according to new analysis from the American Migraine Prevalence and Prevention Study. Lost productive time (LPT) is estimated as the average weekly time lost due to an employee being absent (absenteeism) and reduced performance while at work (presenteeism).

Migraine is a neurological syndrome characterized by severe, painful headaches that are often accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and increased sensitivity to light and sound. Headaches may last for hours or even days. The pain is often on one side of the head and pulsating. Headaches may be preceded by aura: sensory warning signs such as flashes of light, blind spots, tingling in the arms and legs. Migraine can be divided into those experiencing headache on average 15 or more days per month (CM) and episodic migraine (EM): headache on average fewer than 15 days per month. Of the estimated 30 million Americans who suffer from migraine, approximately one million – mostly women – suffer from CM.

Chronic Migraine (CM) sufferers experience greater LPT in the workplace than those suffering from EM. This study showed that in the age interval 35-44 years, the LPT of CM sufferers was 215.3 hours higher per year than those suffering from EM. The amount of LPT among CM increased over age groups while it remained relatively low and stable among EM.

Cost estimates increased for CM across age cohorts while remaining relatively constant for EM. On an annual basis for those aged 35-44 years, this translated to the LPT for CM sufferers being $5,352.36 higher per year than those with EM. The average cost of LPT per week was based on 2005 census median income estimates.

According to Dr. Dawn Buse, one of the study's authors and Assistant Professor at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Director of Behavioral Medicine at the Montefiore Headache Center, "The burden of CM is significant in terms of LPT and related costs. The results from these analyses may even underestimate that burden as these data do not capture those who are unemployed and may have exited the labor force through disability or early retirement, representing a significant loss of trained and skilled people who may exit the labor force early due to the burden of CM."

According to Dr. Richard Lipton, one of the study's authors and Professor of Neurology and Epidemiology and Population Health at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Director of the Montefiore Headache Center, "The cost of treatment, whether it be to prevent a headache attack or to treat during an attack, may be considerably lower for employers than the costs associated with LPT. Additionally, treatments may ease the suffering of employees, while recovering the labor value of experienced and knowledgeable employees burdened by the symptom and work-related impacts of CM."

Dr. Buse advised, "By understanding the findings of this study, assessing the amount of lost work time their organization is experiencing due to migraine, and taking measures to educate and encourage migraine sufferers to seek treatment, organizations could reduce the amount of LPT and related costs due to migraine, and improve the health and quality of life of their employees."

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