The Cost of Your Sick Days: $576 Billion to the U.S. Economy

NEW YORK (BankingMyWay) — It’s no secret poor health can hurt a career, but now employers have a firm grasp on just how substantially bad health and sick days can affect the corporate bottom line.

The digits come from the Integrated Benefits Institute, a nonprofit health research and analytical firm.

The San Francisco-based firm says the U.S. economy loses a staggering $576 billion annually to poor health. Furthermore, U.S. companies lose $227 billion to lack of worker productivity.

The firm defines “lost productivity” as employees being out of work due to illness or if their work suffers because they show up despite being ill (a syndrome IBI calls “presenteeism”).

It’s an issue that hasn’t generated a great deal of buzz, but IBI says poor health and workplace productivity should be a “wake-up call” for politicians, businesses and the country.

“There’s a reason that everyone in the U.S. is worried about the economy and health care,” says Thomas Parry, IBI’s president. “These are two fundamental issues that are tightly coupled through health’s impact on productivity and shape our standards of living. Since this election is weighing heavily on how the candidates tackle these issues, it’s important that we recognize how they are connected. Illness costs this country hundreds of billions of dollars, and this should serve as a wake-up call for both candidates and employers to invest in the health of workers, for the sake of the people and the benefit of U.S. business.”

The data show that companies that invest in employees’ health, usually through wellness programs and compensation practices tied to healthy lifestyle habits, can save big bucks.

IBI points to data from Cornell University economist Sean Nicholson.

“The literature shows that employers can save an average of $3 for every $1 they invest in improving their workers’ health, so there are opportunities for companies to increase profits and wages while they improve worker health,” Nicholson says.